KILLEEN, Texas — Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who admitted shooting to kill in a Fort Hood building packed with unarmed soldiers nearly four years ago, once said he wished he had died in the attack so he could become a Muslim martyr.
On Wednesday, after deliberating a little more than two hours, a jury of Army combat veterans and senior officers sentenced him to death by lethal injection for killing or wounding more than 40 soldiers on Nov. 5, 2009.
The same jury had found Hasan guilty Friday of 45 counts of murder and attempted murder in a shooting rampage that a Senate report called the deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001. The sentence suggested that the jury agreed with the Army's lead prosecutor, Col. Michael Mulligan, who told them earlier in the morning in his closing argument that Hasan was not and never would be a martyr.
"Do not be fooled," Mulligan said. "He is not giving his life. We are taking his life. This is not his gift to God. This is his debt to society."
Driven, he said, by a hatred of U.S. military action in the Muslim world and a desire to protect Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, Hasan turned on troops wearing the same camouflage uniform as his own, using those green fatigues and his laser-sighted semiautomatic pistol to target soldiers but avoid civilians. Firing 146 rounds at men and women as they crawled on the floor or crouched behind desks and cubicles, he killed 12 soldiers and a civilian who lunged at him with a chair.
All 13 jurors — nine colonels, three lieutenant colonels and one major — voted for the death penalty.
Hasan was the first defendant to represent himself in a military capital-punishment case in modern times, raising a host of issues. Some military legal experts suggested that Hasan's case, in which he became a nonparticipant at his own trial and sought the death sentence, represented a fundamental breakdown of the military justice system.
Hasan admitted to the jury in his opening statement that he was the gunman. He asked few questions, made few objections to testimony and entered one exhibit into evidence — a portion of an officer evaluation report in which he received high marks. He made no closing argument.
Hasan, 43, would become the first U.S. soldier in decades to be executed in the military's death chamber in Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
The execution of a soldier requires approval by the president. The four condemned prisoners on the military's death row at Fort Leavenworth, have languished for years and even decades, as their cases are appealed. The last execution carried out at Fort Leavenworth was in April 1961, with the hanging of John A. Bennett, an Army private convicted of the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old Austrian girl. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed his execution order.
If Hasan is to become the first soldier to be executed since Bennett, the process will likely take an additional 10 or 15 years. An automatic appeals process will inch Hasan's case through military and federal appellate courts, which have overturned or commuted a number of military death sentences in recent years, often because of procedural issues involving ineffective legal assistance.
During the sentencing phase of the trial Monday and Tuesday, 20 gunshot-wound survivors and relatives of Hasan's murder victims took the witness stand. The court-martial had up to that point been a button-down proceeding void of all but the most subtle hints of emotion. The judge, Col. Tara A. Osborn, warned spectators in the gallery not to even nod or shake their heads in approval or disapproval during the proceedings.
But the testimony of relatives unleashed a flood of heartache.
Relatives spoke of suicide attempts and families that split apart after the loss of a husband, wife, son or daughter.
Staff Sgt. Patrick L. Zeigler Jr., who was shot by Hasan four times, limped to the witness stand in uniform and told the jury that 20 percent of his brain had been removed and that he struggled with severe depression. Philip Warman, the husband of Lt. Col. Juanita L. Warman, 55, testified that he started drinking after his wife's death, but then got help and is now sober. A prosecutor asked him what he did with the coins he received at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings representing the milestones of his sobriety.
"I would push them into the ground of my wife's grave," Warman said.