FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — As the head of a military jury read a verdict convicting him of premeditated murder 13 times, Major Nidal Hasan stared intently at her. Then he let his eyes fall to the courtroom desk in front of him.
The army psychiatrist responsible for a 2009 shooting rampage against his fellow soldiers at Texas’ Fort Hood, the worst mass-shooting in history on a U.S. military base, offered no visible reaction and said nothing. But that’s how almost his entire 14-day trial has gone — ever since Hasan fired his legal team and began representing himself.
On Monday morning, the jury’s 11 men and two women will begin deciding whether Hasan should be put to death by lethal injection. And, despite trial judge Col. Tara Osborn saying it was an unwise decision, he said he wishes to continue acting as his own lawyer.
“This is where members (of the jury) decide whether you will live or whether you will die,” Osborn told Hasan after the verdict. The sentencing phase will include more testimony from survivors of the attack inside an Army medical center where soldiers were waiting to receive immunizations and medical clearance for deployment to combat overseas.
There was never any doubt that Hasan was the gunman. He acknowledged to the jury that he pulled the trigger on fellow soldiers as they prepared to deploy overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan, saying he had “switched sides” and acted to protect Muslim insurgents abroad.
His court-appointed standby lawyers said Hasan’s only goal was to get a death sentence, and, true to form, during the trial he raised few objections while calling no witnesses, refusing to take the stand in his own defense and offering no closing argument.
Hasan also was convicted Friday on 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 wounded.
After his sentence was read, relatives of the dead and wounded fought back tears. Some smiled and warmly patted each other’s shoulders as they left court.
Autumn Manning, whose husband, retired Staff Sgt. Shawn Manning, was shot six times during the attack, wept when the verdict was read. She said she had been concerned that some charges might be reduced to manslaughter, which would have taken a death sentence off the table.
“This is so emotional,” she said in a telephone interview from Lacey, Wash., where she and her husband live. “I’ve just been crying since we heard it because it was a relief. … We just wanted to hear the premeditated.”
John Galligan, Hasan’s former lead attorney, said the jury did not hear all the facts because the judge refused to allow evidence that helped explain Hasan’s actions.
“Right or wrong, strong or weak, the facts are the facts,” he said. “The jury we heard from only got half the facts.”
Jurors deliberated for about seven hours over the course of two days. Its members can now send Hasan to military death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, though the military hasn’t executed an active duty U.S. soldier since 1961. The most-lenient punishment Hasan could face is life in prison.
Hasan, a Virginia-born Muslim, said the attack was a jihad against U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of his few displays of emotion during the trial came when he bristled after Osborn suggested the shooting rampage could have been avoided were it not for a spontaneous flash of anger.
“It wasn’t done under the heat of sudden passion,” Hasan said then. “There was adequate provocation — that these were deploying soldiers that were going to engage in an illegal war.”
All but one of the dead were soldiers, including a pregnant private who curled on the floor and pleaded for her baby’s life.
The attack ended when Hasan was shot in the back by one of a police officer responding to the shooting. He is paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair.
Hasan spent weeks planning the Nov. 5, 2009, attack. His preparation included buying a high-capacity handgun and videotaping a sales clerk showing him how to change the magazine.
He later plunked down $10 at a gun range outside Austin, about 70 miles south of Fort Hood, and asked for pointers on how to reload with speed and precision.
When the time came, Hasan stuffed paper towels in the pockets of his cargo pants to muffle the rattling of extra ammo and avoid arousing suspicion.
Soldiers testified that Hasan’s rapid reloading made it all but impossible to stop the shooting, and investigators recovered 146 shell casings inside the medical building and dozens more outside, where Hasan shot at the backs of soldiers fleeing toward the parking lot.
Associated Press reporters John Mone at Fort Hood and Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston contributed to this report.