FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — A military jury on Friday convicted Maj. Nidal Hasan in the deadly 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, returning a unanimous verdict that makes the Army psychiatrist eligible for the death penalty in the shocking assault against American troops at home by one of their own.
There was never any doubt that Hasan was the gunman. He acknowledged to the jury that he was the one who pulled the trigger on fellow soldiers as they prepared to deploy overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan. And he barely defended himself during a three-week trial.
The unanimous decision on all 13 counts of premeditated murder made Hasan eligible for execution in the sentencing phase that begins Monday.
Hasan, who said he acted to protect Muslim insurgents abroad from American aggression, did not react to the verdict, looking straight at jurors as they announced their findings. After the hearing, relatives of the dead and wounded fought back tears. Some smiled and warmly patted each other's shoulders as they left court.
Because Hasan never denied his actions, the court-martial was always less about a conviction than it was about ensuring he received a death sentence. From the beginning, the federal government has sought to execute Hasan, believing that any sentence short of a lethal injection would deprive the military and the families of the dead of the justice they have sought for nearly four years.
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."
Hasan, who was also convicted on 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder, carried out the attack in a crowded waiting room where unarmed troops were making final preparations to deploy. Thirteen people were killed and more than were 30 wounded.
John Galligan, Hasan's former lead attorney, said Hasan called him to make sure he heard the verdict, and the pair planned to meet later at Fort Hood. He said Hasan did not indicate whether he would retain an attorney or continue to represent himself during the trial's sentencing phase.
Galligan 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."
The jury of 13 high-ranking officers took about seven hours to reach the verdict. In the next phase, jurors must all agree to give Hasan the death penalty before he can be sent to the military's death row, which has just five other prisoners. If they do not agree, the 42-year-old could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Hasan, a Virginia-born Muslim, said the attack was a jihad against U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He bristled when the trial judge, Col. Tara Osborn, suggested the shooting rampage could have been avoided were it not for a spontaneous flash of anger.
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