FORT HOOD –After calling 89 witnesses over two weeks and a day, Army prosecutors have rested their case against Maj. Nidal Hasan but the admitted mass murderer will have to wait a day before presenting his own defense.
The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, refused to let Hasan present his defense until he meets face-to-face with the second of two witnesses he wants to dismiss.
“Hasan stated he did not wish to have Dr. Lewis Rambo – a religious conversion expert – testify on his behalf," explained Tyler Broadway, Fort Hood spokesman. "[Judge] Osborn ordered the government to ensure Rambo was present for a face-to-face conversation in the event Hasan changes his mind.”
“I’m going to give you the opportunity to talk to him face-to-face,” the judge told Hasan.
“To waste his time being here when he has other professional responsibilities doesn’t seem fitting,” Hasan replied.
Still, the judge ordered the Army to bring Dr. Rambo to court to meet with Hasan, giving the accused every benefit of the doubt.
Hasan dismissed Rambo and another witness and suggested he does not plan to call anyone for his defense.
“If you choose to testify,” the judge, Col. Tara Osborn told Hasan, “it’s your choice and solely your choice. But if you testify, you have to ask yourself questions and you must give answers. Do you still want to proceed as your own counsel?"
“Yes ma’am,” Hasan replied.
Steven Douglas Bennett, a civilian photographer who was on post preparing to take pictures and video of a graduation ceremony nearby, testified he walked outside as Hasan exited the medical building after the massacre.
“I heard gunshots,” Bennett said. “I saw an individual that was acting very suspicious, very strangely. He appeared to be checking doors to one of the buildings. He was checking doors – in what I thought, at the time - was a very agitated and frantic method.”
Bennett described the scene as chaos with people running away and cars scurrying off curbs.
“At one point, I encounter this individual who appears to have a weapon of some sort,” Bennett said. “He told me ‘this is a paintball gun. I’m on a training exercise.’ Then he exited the scene.”
Prosecutors showed six images Bennett captured, including a couple of Hasan on the ground after he had been shot by a Fort Hood police officer. He went on to identify Hasan in court as “the bearded individual.”
Hasan did not cross-examine Bennett.
The policeman who shot and paralyzed Hasan, Ofc. Mark Allen Todd, Sr., had his testimony read in court rather than appear personally.
After arriving on the shooting scene, Todd said bystanders pointed out Hasan as the shooter.
“I challenged him, ‘Stop! Military police!’ Then he turned around and lifted up the pistol," Ofc. Todd said. "I distinctly remember the red laser pointing at me, and I thought ‘Oh, OK.’”
Maj. Anthony Charles Bonfiglio, a fellow psychiatrist who studied with Hasan, testified the accused applied for and was accepted to a disaster psychiatry residency which Hasan hoped would delay his deployment overseas by two years.
The final witness, Dr. Tonya Nicole Kozminski, worked with Hasan at Darnall Army Medical Center a month before the shooting.
She told the court that on October 17, Hasan shared an uncomfortable prediction - that if the Army deployed him to Iraq or Afghanistan, "they will pay," Dr. Kozminski said.
Prosecutors asked for a recess just before noon on Tuesday to make sure the exhibits going back to the jurors (known as panelists in the military judicial system) are correct before they rest.
In all, Army prosecutors have presented 89 witnesses over the last two weeks, from survivors and witnesses of the 2009 massacre to FBI experts.
On Monday, Judge Osborn refused to let the prosecution introduce evidence that Army attorneys said would have shown Hasan’s motivation.
So far, he has only asked a few questions to three prosecution witnesses in limited cross-examination.
Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the shooting massacre on post in November 2009.