KILLEEN, Texas — A military jury on Friday found Major Nidal Malik Hasan guilty of carrying out the largest mass murder at a military installation in US history.
The verdict, delivered by 13 senior Army officers, came 17 days after Hasan’s court-martial began on Aug. 6, and nearly four years after the day Hasan killed and wounded dozens of unarmed soldiers at a medical deployment center at Fort Hood.
Hasan, a psychiatrist who turned on the very soldiers he devoted much of his 15-year military career to helping, sat in a wheelchair in combat fatigues, an American flag patch on his upper right sleeve. Inside a Fort Hood courtroom filled with soldiers, military police, and the relatives of those he killed, but none of his own family members, he had no reaction when the verdict was announced.
The jury of nine colonels, three lieutenant colonels, and one major deliberated for roughly seven hours over two days before finding him guilty of 45 counts of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder, one count for each of the 13 people he killed and the 32 he wounded or shot at.
Throughout the trial the jurors heard the prosecution’s nearly 90 witnesses describe how Hasan opened fire at the medical processing building with a semiautomatic pistol on Nov. 5, 2009, using the green and red laser sights under the barrel to target uniformed soldiers but avoid those in civilian clothes or medical scrubs.
He and prosecutors said his mission was to kill as many soldiers as he could as part of a jihad to protect “my Muslim brothers” from US soldiers deploying to Afghanistan. A year after the shooting, he told a military mental health panel that he wished he had died in the attack so he could have become a martyr. He expressed no remorse for his actions, only regret that he was paralyzed by police officers who shot him, ending the attack.
The verdict now opens the sentencing phase of the court-martial, with the 13 officers deciding whether to sentence Hasan to die by lethal injection. He could become the first US soldier in 52 years to be executed , which requires presidential approval.
If even one member of the jury votes against death, Hasan will be sentenced to life in prison.
The start of the court-martial trial was delayed several times, largely because of Hasan’s attempts to keep the beard he had grown for religious reasons, in violation of Army rules. In contrast, Hasan Akbar, the Army sergeant who was sentenced to death in a grenade attack on his own camp in Kuwait in 2003, was convicted just two years after his attack. It has been three years and nine months Hasan’s shooting spree.
His trial has also become one of the most expensive cases in military history, costing the government more than $5 million, including $8,000 a month to rent a trailer near the courthouse where Hasan could work on his case with access to a computer, printer, and law books.
The Army has paid Bell County more than $584,000 since 2010 to incarcerate, feed, and provide security and medical services for Hasan at its jail in Belton, Texas.
The evidence against Hasan was overwhelming. Victims identified him as the shooter and prosecutors said that all of the 146 rounds found in the building matched up exactly with the FN Five-seven handgun that Hasan bought months before the attack at a local gun shop and that was removed from his hand after he was shot.
He shot soldiers in the back, as they lay wounded on the floor. He shot both men and women in uniform, including Private Francheska Velez, 21, who was pregnant with her first child and was one of the 13 people he killed.
Beyond the evidence and testimony, however, jurors witnessed for themselves Hasan’s unusual handling of his case.
Hasan released his court-appointed Army defense lawyers in order to represent himself. No defendant in a military capital punishment case has represented himself in modern times. After Hasan split from his lawyers, the judge overseeing the court-martial, Colonel Tara A. Osborn, ordered the defense team to remain by his side as standby counsel.
Hunched over in his wheelchair, thinner and paler than in 2009, Hasan was a quiet, soft-spoken defendant throughout the trial, making only a handful of objections and asking few questions. When it came time to submit a plea to the charges, Hasan declined, so the judge entered a plea of not guilty for him.
After the prosecution rested, Hasan presented no defense on Wednesday, calling no witnesses and declining to take the stand and testify. On Thursday, he declined to make a closing argument.
His former Army lawyers had argued Hasan was encouraging rather than fighting a death sentence, believing dying would make him a martyr, and they told the judge that helping him achieve that goal violated their professional and moral obligations.