Accused Fort Hood shooter offers no defense in pre-trial hearing
An army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in a shooting spree on a Texas army base Monday offered no evidence in a hearing set to determine whether he should stand trial.
Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who was paralyzed from the chest down in the incident on November 5, 2009, sat implacably in his wheelchair wearing a camouflage uniform and light green watch cap.
Asked by an Army judge if he had anything to say, he replied “no.”
After prosecutors took nine days and 56 witnesses to present their case at Fort Hood military base, the defense rested in just four minutes.
Hasan stands charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 charges of attempted premeditated murder. If the case goes to trial and he is convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Colonel James Pohl, the judge who presided over a number of the abuse hearings in the Baghdad jail of Abu Ghraib here five years ago, will now issue a recommendation on whether a trial should be called.
It is likely he will say there is enough evidence for a trial, but it remains unclear when he will make his recommendation.
Under military law, he will now hand the case off to a general either on Fort Hood or another post if he believes it should go to a court martial.
A Fort Hood spokesman said last week a decision is expected at the beginning of next year, but one military legal lawyer said he could not be sure.
“We can speculate endlessly,” said Army Lieutenant Colonel Chris Allen, “but I don’t think anyone knows that.”
Witnesses, most of them soldiers, have fingered Hasan as a ruthless shooter who gunned down troops and civilians.
But Hasan’s lead attorney, retired Army Colonel John Galligan, has sought to dismiss the case saying he had not been given three pieces of critical evidence.
One of them is an intelligence review on the shooting ordered by President Barack Obama. Another is a report that looked into the actions of officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where Hasan worked before moving to Fort Hood.
A mental health evaluation also has yet to be conducted.
Galligan’s decision not to call witnesses was no surprise and might even have been part of his strategy as attorneys sometimes opt not to give prosecutors clues about their defense.
“I don’t think you think in terms of tactical advantage, strategic advantage,” Galligan told reporters in a press conference.
“You look in terms of have we been provided with all of the material and relevant evidence that’s necessary for you to properly evaluate where you stand in the course of the criminal process.”
The army has come under fire for missing numerous warning signs about Hasan, who had been in email communication with Anwar al-Awlaqi, a radical US-Yemeni cleric now being hunted in Yemen as an Al-Qaeda associate.