FORT HOOD – Prosecutors delivered a powerful final argument in a heavily fortified courthouse on post Wednesday, asking a jury panel of U.S. Army officers to give Maj. Nidal Hasan the death penalty for killing 13 and wounding 31 during his 2009 shooting rampage on post.
“Death,” prosecutor Col. Mike Mulligan began by saying in closing arguments. “[Hasan] was trained as a doctor to save lives but on 5 November he only dealt death. He dealt no compassion, he dealt no understanding, he dealt no exceptions. He only dealt death.”
“Because what he did, because of who he did it to … the just and appropriate sentence in this case is death,” Mulligan said for the first time.
He went on to recount the tragedy of each murder and the bravery of the those who tried to stop the massacre.
“They were unarmed. They were unafraid. And they charged a barrage of bullets,” Mulligan said. “Mike Cahill had just returned to work at the [Soldier Readiness Processing Center]. He was shot six times. Mike Cahill did not go meekly. He charged with a steel folding chair – a 62-year-old man with a bad heart, a few extra pounds, trying to close the distance with a murderer.
It was the most moving argument yet from U.S. Army prosecutors during in the 17 day trial.
“My task in sentencing is to summarize the evidence in both phases – to summarize the 13 lives, to articulate a parent’s love and to articulate the dark chasm of a parent’s loss,” Mulligan added.
“The murderous attack left enormous carnage,” he continued. “It would be wrong and unsupported to link his actions on 5 November to any wider cause. He served his own needs and his own wants. The attack by him was all about him."
Prosecutors then addressed Hasan’s religion.
“History is replete with death in the name of religion,” Mulligan said slowly. “You should not punish him for his religion. You should punish him for his hate. You should punish him for his actions he took in the name of his religion – not his religion.”
Hasan did not present a closing argument – his final chance to do so.
He did not present a defense during the sentencing phase of his trial either. His standby attorneys asked the judge on Tuesday if they could present a defense on Hasan’s behalf but she denied it.
The jury is likely to begin deliberations late this morning or early this afternoon.
The judge is allowing the jury to consider three punishments: life in prison with parole, life in prison without parole or death by lethal injection.
The first question they face is whether to give Hasan the death penalty. If they vote unanimously for it, then deliberations end and the verdict is returned to the court.
The jury already found Hasan guilty of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder last Friday.
Hasan will lose his rank of major when he is dismissed from the service.
“A sentence of death includes dismissal,” said Rick Rosen, Texas Tech law professor. “Even if Hasan receives life imprisonment, I am certain the court-martial will dismiss him from the Army. The question is when does it become effective? As a general rule, a dismissal becomes effective only after the completion of appellate review of the case, which could take years.”
Still, Rosen said the Commanding General of Human Resources Command could allow an exception to this policy.
Hasan will forfeit his pay and allowances two weeks after the sentence is announced.