Nidal Hasan death sentence for Fort Hood killing spree
President Obama could face a ‘nasty dilemma’ if he has to sign off US Army psychiatrist’s execution
A FORMER US Army psychiatrist has been sentenced to death by lethal injection for killing 12 soldiers and one civilian and wounding 32 others at the Texas army base Fort Hood.
In an attack described in a Senate report as the worst act of terrorism on American soil since 9/11, Major Nidal Hasan opened fire in a medical facility on 5 November 2009.
The Virginia-born Muslim took aim at soldiers who were lining up to receive immunisations. He fired 146 rounds as men and women crawled on the floor or crouched behind desks and cubicles to avoid being hit. One of his victims was a pregnant private who curled up on the floor and pleaded for her baby’s life, reports The Guardian.
The 42-year-old’s killing spree ended only when a civilian police officer shot him in the back, paralysing him from the waist down.
Hasan had claimed he was trying to protect Taliban insurgents from troops about to deploy to Afghanistan. He tried to admit his guilt but military law bans guilty pleas in death penalty cases. Instead, he chose to represent himself and refused to put up a defence, suggesting that death would be a means to his martyrdom.
But prosecutor Colonel Mike Mulligan said in court: “He will not now and he will never be a martyr. He is a criminal. He is a cold-blooded murderer.”
Military jurors took just two hours to choose a death sentence over life in prison without parole, which means Hasan could become the first American soldier executed in more than half a century.
However, the long appeals process in the military justice system means it could be many years before he dies.
His execution would have to be authorised by the President, giving Barack Obama a “nasty dilemma”, writes Hendrik Hertzberg in the New Yorker. Hasan’s conviction came on the same day that Sergeant Robert Bales was sentenced for another killing spree. He “went rogue” and massacred 16 Afghan villagers in March 2012. However, he was allowed to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty and will now serve life in prison without parole.
Army experts have given several reasons for the different sentences, including the fact that the two men were tried by different convening authorities and that there was much more evidence to prove Hasan’s guilt.
But Hertzberg thinks the wider world might see the two outcomes more simply. One “dark-skinned Muslim with an Arab name” kills 13 Americans and is put to death, while a “white Christian-American soldier” kills 16 Muslim civilians and his life is spared, he says. “It’s not hard to guess what conclusions will be drawn across much of the world, especially the Muslim world.” ·