Army Builds Case Against Alleged Fort Hood Shooter

Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan faces 13 counts of premeditated murder and could face the death penalty for his alleged shooting of 12 soldiers and a civilian at a processing center for soldiers about to be deployed. Once the case goes to trial, it promises to be one of the highest profile cases ever within the military's justice system, and the Army is trying to do it by the book.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The military has now filed formal charges against Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan in Texas. He faces 13 counts of premeditated murder and could face the death penalty if convicted of last weeks shootings at Fort Hood. Once the case goes to trial, it will surely be one of the most high profile cases ever within the military's justice system. NPRs Jeff Brady reports.

JEFF BRADY: At the entrance to Fort Hood, Chris Gray, from the Armys Criminal Investigation Division, read the charges along with the rest of his prepared script.

Mr. CHRIS GRAY (U.S.´┐ŻArmy): I will not be releasing any details today that will jeopardize our ongoing criminal investigation or future legal proceedings.

BRADY: Meantime, a few hours away, at a hospital in San Antonio, Major Hasan had received notice of the charges. His lawyer, John Galligan, was upset the Army didn't tell him so he could be by his clients side to explain the documents.

Mr. JOHN GALLIGAN (Attorney): I like to believe a system in any court is going to be fair, impartial, just. But you know, were not on video or anything like that, but I think it should be apparent to you just looking at my face - this has not made me a happy man.

BRADY: Failing to notify the opposing counsel might seem like a pretty big thing to just forget, but Eugene Fidell doesnt think it will affect the case. He teaches military law at Yale.

Professor EUGENE FIDELL (Yale University): I don't think it has any practical consequences, but if I were directing this play, I would have written it differently.

BRADY: Over the coming months and possibly years, Fidell predicts were in for a huge trial on a scale hes never seen in his 40 year military justice career. So it might be helpful to understand a little bit more about that system. Fidell says much is the same as the civilian courts in the U.S. One difference is the jury. Instead of randomly choosing people, in military courts the posts commanding officer picks jurors.

Prof. FIDELL: Theyre selected according to age, judicial temperament, experience, education. So theres a sense in which they can be thought of as a blue-ribbon jury. Thats certainly different from a civilian jury.

BRADY: And Fidell says the grand jury process is different in military courts, because the defendants attorney actually gets to sit in and even call witnesses. But all that is far down the road. A trial date hasnt even been set. And there likely will be a fight over where the trial is held. Also, the investigation is still in the beginning stages. Chris Gray with the Army says a huge crime scene around the shooting area remains active.

Mr. GRAY: Additionally, some of the witnesses that experienced this tragic event are still seeking medical attention and we have not been able to talk to them and the special agents have not been able to speak with them yet.

BRADY: Meantime, President Barack Obama has ordered a parallel investigation to determine if the government ignored warning signs about Nidal Hasan.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Killeen, Texas.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Fort Hood Suspect Charged With 13 Counts Of Murder

Military officials charged an Army psychiatrist with 13 counts of premeditated murder Thursday in connection with last week's shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas, and said more charges could be filed as investigators continue their probe into the deadly rampage.

Understanding The Military Justice System

Chris Grey, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Division, announced the charges Thursday against Maj. Nidal Hasan. The maximum sentence under the military justice system for the crime is death; the minimum is life in prison without possibility of parole.

Grey said Hasan is the sole suspect in the killings, but investigators are continuing to sift through evidence on the nation's largest Army post, as well as in the nearby community of Killeen.

"We are aggressively following every possible lead," Grey said during an afternoon news conference. "We still believe there was only one gunman," but investigators haven't questioned all of the witnesses, he added.

Col. John Rossi, a Fort Hood spokesman, said 12 of the gunman's victims remain hospitalized in stable condition. One is in intensive care.

Authorities said Hasan, 39, fired off more than 100 rounds of ammunition before he was brought down by civilian police. He remains hospitalized in stable condition at Fort Sam Houston's Brooke Army Medical Center near San Antonio.

Details have emerged that Hasan, who is Muslim, was strongly opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His family has said he was trying to get out of being deployed to Afghanistan later this month.

"We are looking at every reason that could have motivated" the shootings, Grey said, adding that investigators have learned that Hasan was not at the post for a scheduled appointment or "command directed" activity.

"We are looking at every possible angle in this case," Grey said. "We're working closely with numerous agencies to get a complete picture of the entire event, and we are seamlessly sharing that information with those agencies."

John P. Galligan, a retired military officer hired to represent Hasan by the suspect's family, said the military has not shared information with him. He said his military-appointed co-counsel told him charges were being read to Hasan in the hospital without his lawyers present.

"I don't like it. I feel like I'm being left out of the loop," Galligan said.

"What I find disturbing is that my client is in ICU, and he's 150 miles south of his defense counsel, and he's being served with the charges," he told The Associated Press. "Given his status as a patient, I'm troubled by this procedure and that I'm not there. I'm in the dark, and that shouldn't be the case. I am mad."

Meanwhile, President Obama ordered a review of any intelligence information related to Hasan and a probe into whether information was shared with the proper agencies and whether it was subsequently acted upon.

Two government officials have said a joint terrorism task force overseen by the FBI was notified of communication between Hasan and radical imam Anwar al-Awlaki.

The White House review will be led by John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. Initial results are due by Nov. 30.

Obama also ordered that intelligence documents be preserved. Members of Congress, particularly Michigan Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, have called for a full examination of what agencies knew about Hasan's contacts with Awlaki and others of concern to the U.S., and what they did with the information.

A Senate hearing on Hasan is scheduled for next week, and the Senate Homeland Security Committee announced it is opening its own investigation this week.

Contributing: NPR staff and wire services

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: