Hasan gets death for Fort Hood massacre; 'Justice has been served'



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Posted on August 28, 2013 at 8:26 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 28 at 11:37 PM

FORT HOOD – U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan will be executed for the 2009 shooting rampage on post that left 13 people dead and more than 30 wounded.

The jury panel of 13 U.S. Army officers delivered the verdict on post moments before 2 p.m. Wednesday. They deliberated for two hours and 20 minutes. Hasan stared forward with no visible facial expression as the judge read him the verdict. 

Last Friday, the same panel unanimously found Hasan guilty of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood.

This sentencing verdict ends the court martial after 17 days. In it, Hasan, who defended himself, did not present a defense and refused to cross-examine any of his victims. 

"This has been a very long and exhausting process," said Keely Vanacker, the daughter of Mike Cahill, who was one of Hasan's victims. "We are tired; we are hurt; but we are resolved justice has been served."

Hasan will immediately lose his rank of major and he will stop getting paid in two weeks.

"There are two messages leaving that courtroom," said victim's daughter Kerry Cahill. "There is the one of hatred, cowardice and betrayal, and there is one of loyalty, dedication and honor."

Gale Hunt stood outside the courtroom clutching a photo of her son, Spc. Jason Hunt, who was also killed in the 2009 rampage.

"As a Christian, I can't say that I wish anyone dead for crimes against me and my family," she said, "but that doesn't mean that I'm opposed to the death penalty, or that if the government or the families of the other 13 families want the death penalty, that they are not perfectly justified."

The Army will soon transfer him to the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. to begin serving his sentence.

Fort Leavenworth's U.S. Disciplinary Barracks is the military's only maximum-security prison, housing inmates who are sentenced to at least 10 years in prison as well as death.

But an execution is not imminent. Hasan automatically gets an appeal and it has been more than 50 years since the military executed anyone.

Hasan's case is unusual given his physical condition and limitations. The Army psychiatrist was shot in the back during the shooting rampage and is paralyzed from the waist down. He is confined to a wheelchair and requires specialized care for his needs.

Kimberly Lewis, a spokeswoman for Fort Leavenworth, said the prison has a health clinic that is staffed with active duty military medical professionals and civil service medical professionals.  She declined to address specific medical needs that any one inmate would require or receive.

Hasan's confinement at Fort Leavenworth could complicate the logistics for prison staff, given his physical limitations, said Anita Gorecki-Robbins, a former Army attorney now in private practice.

She said death row inmates have special custody procedures, including how they are handled during daily recreation time. Only two inmates are allowed in the so-called "bullpen" where they can exercise, a space with 40-foot high walls and solid concrete floors.

"Death row inmates will never see or feel grass ever again," Gorecki-Robbins said.

She said procedures require two inmates to be released into the recreation area without guards. If Hasan requires medical assistance, only he and the attendant would be allowed out unless other logistics are arranged.

Hasan will join five other inmates who also are on death row, though one could have his sentence commuted to life in prison. None of the death row inmates are close to an execution date.

The last military execution took place in 1961 when John Bennett, an Army private convicted of raping and attempting to kill an 11-year-old Austrian girl, was put to death. President Dwight Eisenhower signed his execution order in 1957.

If and when an inmate is executed it will take place at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., the same location where convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed in 2001 by lethal injection.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

E-mail: jwhitely@wfaa.com