FORT HOOD – Thirteen U.S. Army officers began deliberations Thursday in the trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who admitted committing the deadliest shooting massacre ever on a U.S. military installation.
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Friday.
Deliberations began at 1:56 p.m. and jurors resumed court at 5:45 p.m. to ask that the written testimony of Ofc. Mark Todd, who shot Hasan, be re-read, and to request a recess until Friday morning.
Todd never appeared during the trial.
The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, asked the government to provide a cot for Hasan just outside the courtroom while he awaits the verdict. The court has made other accommodations to account for Hasan's fragile medical condition after he was shot and paralyzed by a Fort Hood policeman after the 2009 massacre.
In closing arguments that lasted 91-minutes, the prosecution used a PowerPoint presentation to detail Hasan’s premeditation of the crime. Col. Steve Henricks, the Army attorney who presented closing arguments for the military, also explained why Hasan’s pistol had two lasers with contrasting colors.
“Red and green are different colors and will show up differently,” Henricks said. “If someone has a red shirt on for example it may not appear. You need those contrasting lasers to take into account any target that may appear.”
Prosecutors also replayed a chilling 911 call and showed video of the aftermath inside the scene and video from the dash-mounted camera of the first responding police officer in which you can hear the exchange of gunfire between police and Hasan.
“The accused went out to kill as many soldiers as he could that day – or anyone who tried to stop him,” Henricks added.
Hasan carried 420 rounds of ammunition preloaded into 16 magazines, along with a hammerless .357-revolver fully chambered with five rounds, Henricks continued.
He also pointed out that Hasan had a special type of bullet loaded into his weapon.
“The accused that day did not take a combat load with him,” Henricks said. “What he did take was a ‘kill load’ because he knew what he was going to do at Station 13 – a station that he made into his personal kill station.”
The prosecution reiterated the final moments of the only pregnant soldier, PE2 Francheska Velez, as she tried to protect her unborn child.
“Here’s a medical doctor,” Henricks said describing Hasan. “He’s been in the [Soldier Readiness Processing] building before. He knows he may find females that are pregnant. And yet she is shot in the back.
Col. Juanita Warman was shot in the back as she crawled away, Henricks said.
Michael Cahill, a civilian doctor, didn’t take cover when the shooting started, Henricks went on.
“He recognized the threat, grabbed a chair and charged Hasan to try to stop the shooting,” Henricks explained.
Hasan fatally shot Cahill in the neck.
The Army attorney detailed what each victim experienced at the hands of Hasan as he sat quietly in the courtroom.
After Henricks completed his closing arguments, the judge, Col. Tara Osborn, turned to Hasan.
“The defense chooses not to make a closing statement,” he said.
“The accused has an absolute right to remain silent,” the judge told the jury panelists. “The fact that the accused has not testified must be disregarded by you.”
Prosecutors spent 11 days establishing their case against Hasan. They called 89 witnesses and have more than 700 pieces of evidence.
Hasan chose not to present a defense Wednesday morning. He could have testified and taken the stand himself, though he would have had to ask and answer his own questions.
But, late Wednesday, in a brief procedural hearing, Hasan unexpectedly offered another confession to the shooting.
“It wasn’t under the heat of sudden passion,” he explained. “But there was adequate provocation. These were deploying soldiers that would engage in an illegal war."
Hasan faces 13 charges of premeditated murder and 32 charges of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 shooting massacre on post.
Military statute also allows the jury, known as a panel, to consider lesser charges. The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, said they would include unpremeditated murder and aggravated assault in this case if they think prosecutors did not prove their case.
How long panel members might deliberate is anyone’s guess though experts doubt deliberations will take very long considering Hasan has admitted guilt, never challenged any of the military’s case against him, and presented no defense.
The military panel must reach a unanimous verdict on all charges for Hasan to be eligible for the death penalty in the sentencing phase of the trial, which begins immediately afterward.
If a panelist votes not guilty on even one charge Hasan would not be eligible to face execution but rather he would get life in prison.
“He may just wait to the sentencing phase of trial to speak,” said Richard Rosen, a professor at Texas Tech Center for Military Law.
Even then, Hasan could testify under oath and would be subject to cross-examination. His other option is to give an unsworn statement that's not under oath and might carry less significance with the panelists.
“Quite frankly, I’ve never seen this before," Rosen added. "I’m not sure what to expect."