After more than a week of jury selection, 13 Army officers were appointed to hear the trial of Major Nidal Malik Hasan on August 6. Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. If convicted, Hasan faces the death penalty.
Two of the 13 chosen jurors expressed skepticism of the death penalty. A courts-martial case requires a two-thirds vote to convict and unanimity to award the death penalty. Maj. Hasan, a former Army psychiatrist, is acting as his own attorney.
In 2009 the shooting rampage at Fort Hood, an army base in central Texas, left 13 dead and over 30 people injured, making it the worst shooting to take place on an American military base. According to an eyewitness, Maj. Hasan entered his workplace, seated himself in a crowded Army medical center, bowed his head before shouting, “Allahu-Akbar,” and riddled the surrounding soldiers with bullets. Hasan, who admits to the crime, has claimed he was defending the Taliban.
However, Attorney General Eric Holder does not classify the shooting as an act of terrorism much to the ire of victims who have since filed a lawsuit. The Department of Justice is considering the shooting a case of “workplace violence.” This title is not merely symbolic. Victims of the shooting, struggling financially due to related health costs, are not entitled to combat-related benefits awarded to victims of terrorism. Hasan, since the shooting four years ago, has continued to receive paychecks from the Army.
“I’m not only disappointed, I’m embarrassed,” says Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford, the prosecution’s lead witness. “Mr. Holder misunderstands the repercussions of his actions.” In the same interview with Fox News, Sgt. Lunsford recommends Holder visit the troops to better understand conditions of the case and what terrorism looks like.
As the case proceeds, jurors have been asked to disregard Hasan’s religious beard, which goes against Army protocol, as well as his clothing. Hasan, paralyzed from waist down since his capture at the shooting, will be wearing more commodious camouflage fatigues instead of the standard dress uniform.