Nidal Hasan Guilty: Will Death Sentence Make Him a Martyr?

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Friday, U.S.-born Muslim Nidal Hasan, was found guilty of the Fort Hood Army post murder of 13 people, and of wounding dozens of others, in Texas in November 2009. He faces a possible death sentence, a fate he might have been attempting to get, as it would potentially make him into a martyr.

Hasan, 42, acted as his own attorney, against the advice of the judge and his three standby attorneys. That, and the fact that Hasan didn’t ask very many questions of witnesses, are two of the factors that have caused some people to theorize that Hasan’s goal was to be handed down a death sentence.

A panel of senior military officers convicted Hasan of 13 charges of premeditated murder and 32 of attempted murder after nearly seven hours of deliberation.

The Army psychiatrist admitted that he carried out the attack in a crowded waiting room. Unarmed troops were there. They were making final preparations to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq.

He was not charged as a terrorist, though at least one of the surviving relatives of one of his victims had hoped that he would be. If that had happened, Hassan’s victims cold have received the Purple Heart, and the government would have been responsible for paying out more benefits to the survivors.

According to news agencies, Hasan’s face showed no signs of reaction as the verdict was read by the military tribunal’s president, a female colonel. He just stared at her.

There was a noticeable reaction by several survivors of the attack and relatives of those who were killed who heard the guilty verdict being read aloud. After Hasan and the military panel left the room, some of them began to cry.

Hasan said before jurors began deliberating. The judge has also advised Hasan to not continue to serve as his own attorney during the sentencing phase; but, so far, that is what he’s saying he’d like to do. Further witnesses might be called during this next stage, and it is possible that, at some point, Hasan might testify before a punishment is announced.

The guilty verdict was unanimous. Survivors and relatives of survivors would like to know how the FBI and Defense Department failed to note warning signs that Hasan had been radicalized. They have also accused the government of abandoning them, perhaps in a deliberated attempt to deprive them of financial benefits.

Hasan has been using a wheelchair to get around ever since he was paralyzed from the chest down, shot during the murderous rampage by an Army civilian officer. At the very outset of the trial, Hasan admitted his responsibility. He said that he’d “switched sides.”

Though military law prohibited Hasan from entering a guilty plea, he very well might have done so, if given the opportunity. This has prompted some of the relatives of survivors and survivors of the attack to think a life sentence in prison might be a better and more fitting punishment for him, instead of giving him a sentence he might want, in order to become a martyr.

This theory seemed to be a valid one as the trial went on, because, aside form giving a brief opening statement and asking prosecution witnesses a scant amount of questions, Hasan didn’t appear very interested in mounting a defense.

He called no witnesses for himself, or to testify in his own behalf. He also did not even give a closing argument.

The manner in which Hasan made his case to the public was through a series of statements and authorized “leaks” to newspapers. He claimed his actions amounted to waging jihad, and that it was because the United States was committing acts of  “illegal and immoral aggression against Muslims” in the countries of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hasan had told a mental-health panel, according to another document, that “if I died by lethal injection, I would still be a martyr.”

Before the jurors began their deliberations, Hasan was momentarily angered by a statement of the judge’s, suggesting that the attack might not have occurred if it hadn’t been done in a moment of passion.

According to Hasan:

It wasn’t done under the heat of sudden passion. There was adequate provocation — that these were deploying soldiers that were going to engage in an illegal war.”

Even though Hasan apparently desires to be executed, experts in legal matters have stated that it will likely be years before a death sentence would be carried out, if one was given him.

There are several automatic appeal stages that happen under the military’s justice system. During these stages, Lawyers might very well be appointed to represent Hasan, whether he wants them, or not.

Even at the point when a death sentence might be handed down to him, a military official called the convening authority will then need to review and approve the court’s records and findings.

Then, the appellate phase of the case would be entered. Hasan’s case would go before the Army and armed forces’s appeals courts, and the case could go all the way up to the level of the Supreme Court. The last step would be for the president to sign off on the death sentence, a step that hasn’t occurred since an active-duty soldier was executed in 1961.

 

Written by: Douglas Cobb

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