Hasan waives defense in Fort Hood case, closing arguments today

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by JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on August 21, 2013 at 10:33 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 22 at 12:46 PM

FORT HOOD – Maj. Nidal Hasan chose not to present a defense Wednesday morning to the massive amount of evidence and eyewitness testimony prosecutors levied against him over the last 11 days.

A few minutes after court resumed, Hasan told the court, "Defense rests."

The judge quizzed him whether that was a personal decision since Hasan represents himself.

"Yes," he replied.

Hasan could have testified and taken the stand himself, though he would have had to ask himself questions and answer them.

If he took the stand, Hasan would have been subject to cross-examination by Army attorneys.

The judge required Hasan to meet with Dr. Lewis Rambo, a religious conversion expert from the San Francisco Theological Seminary, on Tuesday night. Hasan originally planned to call Rambo as his only defense witness but opted against it earlier in the day. Still, the judge, Col. Tara Osborn, gave Hasan every benefit and wanted him to talk to Rambo face-to-face. 

With Hasan presenting no defense, prosecutors requested the remainder of the day to prepare.

Closing arguments will begin Thursday despite Judge Osborn's wishes –– she had hoped to send the case to the jury on Wednesday.

“I think you’re looking at an hour and a half or two hours for closing after 11 days of testimony,” said Colby Vokey, a retired U.S. Marine and current military defense attorney.

The judge will then give the jury its charge – instructions on what to consider during deliberations.

How long they might take is anyone’s guess, though experts doubt deliberations will take very long considering Hasan never challenged any of the military’s case against him. The military panel must have 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.

If a panelist votes not guilty on even one charge Hasan would not be eligible to face execution but rather get life in prison either with or without parole.

“He may just wait to the sentencing phase of trial to speak,” said Richard Rosen, a professor at the Texas Tech Center for Military Law.

Even then, Hasan could testify under oath and be subject to cross-examination or choose to give an unsworn statement which is not under oath and might carry less significance with the panelists.

“Quite frankly, I’ve never seen this before. I’m not sure what to expect,” Rosen added. 

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark said he is talking to Hasan about representing him during sentencing, though nothing is agreed to yet. 

“There’s no understanding at this time,” Clark told News 8. “Communication [with him during trial] is very difficult at this time.”

Hasan faces 13 charges of premeditated murder and 32 charges of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 shooting massacre on post.

Email jwhitely@wfaa.com

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