Suspect Could Face Death Penalty
in Fort Hood Shooting
By Catherine Donaldson-Evans
Nidal Malik Hasan
November 07, 2009. American-born Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan has yet to be
charged but is expected to face at least 13 counts of murder, one for
each of the victims who died, as well as numerous assault and weapons
charges in a court-martial.
"Obviously, we're all guessing, but it's reasonable to believe that he
will be convicted and sentenced to death," said retired Navy lawyer
Philip Cave, now a military crimes defense attorney.
Cave estimated that Hasan, 39, would spend between five and 15 years in
the military's court martial system.
"It will be a long charge sheet," military law scholar Richard Rosen
told KCBD.com, "one longer than I've ever seen in my life time in the
Though the number of wounded has fluctuated, at least 30, including
Hasan, and possibly up to 38 were injured in the mass shooting at the
Army base in Killeen.
Army Secretary John McHugh said Friday an investigation is proceeding
but no charges have yet been filed against Hasan.
Rosen, a retired colonel who was stationed at Fort Hood for 10 years,
called the shooting "tragic and horrible."
"Legal advice is being given at all levels of command right now," Rosen
Only 10 members of the American military have been put to death with
approval from the president since 1951 under the Uniform Code of
Military Justice — the armed services' legal system.
The last military execution was the 1961 hanging of Army Pvt. John
Bennett for rape. Another defendant, Pvt. Ronald Gray, was scheduled to
be executed in December 2008 for multiple murders and rape, but a stay
was granted mere days before the execution.
But the massacre at Fort Hood has been called the worst mass shooting
ever on an American military base.
"All things being equal, he may well be one of those executions," Cave
Hasan is believed to have methodically and calmly opened fire on his
fellow comrades as they filled out medical paperwork and underwent
testing at a processing center that handles soldiers coming and going to
Around 1:30 p.m. Thursday, witnesses say a man later identified as Hasan
jumped up on a desk and shouted the words "Allahu Akbar!" — Arabic for
"God is great!" He was armed with at least one semiautomatic pistol
capable of firing up to 20 rounds without reloading. He shot about 100
rounds before civilian police officer Kim Munley wounded him with four
Though his motive remains unclear, speculation has swirled that he was
dreading his own imminent deployment to the battlefields in Afghanistan,
where he was to continue his work counseling fellow soldiers suffering
from post-traumatic stress and other mental turmoil.
Relatives and associates say Hasan was critical of both the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan and did everything he could to avoid being on the
No one who knew him, however, expected him to be driven to kill.
The suspected gunman's Palestinian uncle told Fox News that the family
was "shocked" by the allegations and had no indication Hasan was capable
of such violence.
"He was very quiet, very nice, never been upset, always a smile," Rafiq
Ismail told Fox News in Ramallah, the West Bank. "Till now, we did not
believe he did it. ... Something happened, made him snap or something."
As a psychiatrist, Hasan had for years listened to other soldiers' tales
of war horrors. Cave said if Hasan's lawyers can show that he himself
was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — which can
happen to psychiatrists and can be a successful legal strategy — then
they might use that in their defense in an attempt to land Hasan a
But Cave doesn't think Hasan would be sentenced to anything less than
life in prison.
Terror charges also could be filed, he said, but only if the government
has hard evidence that Hasan was linked to and acting on behalf of an
actual terrorist group.
In trying to prove premeditation, Cave expects prosecutors to point to
the fact that Hasan had been saying goodbye to friends and giving away
most of his belongings, including copies of the Koran, and left several
messages for neighbors the morning of the killings.
"Nice knowing you, old friend," Hasan said in a 5 a.m. Thursday
voicemail to neighbor Willie Bell. "I'm going to miss you."
Cave said the defense probably would counter that those actions were
those of a man about to be sent overseas to war.
Source: Fox News' Reena Ninan and The (AP) Associated Press contributed
to this report.
The Associated Press contributed
to this report.