KILLEEN, Texas — Choosing small details to underscore the government’s larger murder case against Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a prosecutor on Thursday told a jury of senior Army officers that on the day the major went on a deadly rampage in 2009, he had stuffed paper towels into the cargo pants of his combat fatigues to muffle the metallic clanging of 16 magazines as he walked — a total of 420 rounds for his laser-sighted semiautomatic pistol.
After the massacre, when investigators entered his barren apartment, they found rolls of paper towels on a card table.
When Hasan opened fire inside a medical deployment center at Fort Hood here, killing and wounding dozens of unarmed soldiers, he reloaded those magazines so quickly that no one inside the building could bring him down.
The muffled magazines demonstrated Hasan’s premeditated design to kill, the prosecutor, Colonel Steve Hendricks, said in a 90-minute closing argument that summarized the Army’s case, supported by nearly 90 witnesses in 11 days of testimony. Hendricks’s focus on Hasan’s planning, preparation, and premeditation was crucial as the government tried to persuade the jury to convict the major of premeditated murder and premeditated attempted murder. Should the jury find Hasan not guilty of premeditated murder but guilty of a lesser charge, he would not face the death penalty.
Hasan, a military psychiatrist who has said he was driven by a duty to perform a jihad to protect Muslims from US soldiers being deployed to Afghanistan, has admitted to the jury to being the shooter.
Acting as his own lawyer, Hasan has taken a number of unusual steps during his court-martial, which began Aug. 6 in a heavily secured Fort Hood courthouse. He did not testify himself or call any witnesses on Wednesday, and on Thursday, after the prosecutor’s closing statement, he made another surprising decision, telling the judge that the defense had chosen not to make one.
The jury began deliberations at 1:56 p.m.
Acting as his own attorney, Nidal Hasan took a number of unusual steps during his court-martial.
Hasan, 42, is charged with killing 12 soldiers and one civilian, and wounding or shooting at 32 others in the Nov. 5, 2009, attack. Hendricks, in his closing remarks, spoke of many other signs that the attack had been the result of careful planning.
When Hasan first stepped into the local Guns Galore gun shop months before the attack, he told workers and another customer that he wanted the most technologically advanced handgun on the market, with magazines that held the largest number of rounds possible.
He later honed his sharpshooting skills at a shooting range 30 miles from the base, preferring some targets over others, Hendricks said.
“The accused trained on silhouette targets,” he told the jury. “He specifically picked those over bulls’ eye targets, and these are the results of his training.” The results to which Hendricks referred were the wounds suffered by the 13 people killed — all but two of whom were shot multiple times. One, Specialist Frederick Greene, 29, was shot 12 times.
In addition, Hasan’s green medical checklist was found on a clipboard in the building, and on the back he had written a note to himself describing Station 13 — a waiting area with folding chairs that was one of his first targets — as “very busy,” an Army investigator testified.
The note is crucial, Hendricks said, because it shows that Hasan sought to maximize the number of victims and turn the 45 soldiers packed into Station 13 that afternoon into “his personal kill station.”
Hendricks told the jury that Hasan was motivated by two desires — to avoid deployment to Afghanistan and to kill as many soldiers as possible as part of a jihad duty. Witnesses testified that they heard him shout “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” before the shooting, yet another sign, Hendricks said, of his motive and premeditation.
“He yelled it so no one should be confused that day, and no one should be confused today, either,” the colonel said.
Army prosecutors did not have to prove that Hasan was a homegrown terrorist. He has been charged with murder and attempted murder.
They could have incorporated federal terrorism charges into the case, just as the court-martial of Private First Class Bradley Manning included charges that he violated the federal Espionage Act of 1917 for releasing military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks.
But Army prosecutors declined to include terrorism charges.