Hasan Could Receive Death Penalty After Guilty Verdict

A military jury has unanimously convicted Major Nidal Hasan of 13 counts of pre-meditated murder in the attack on Fort Hood. Hasan could now face the death penalty.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Army Major Nidal Hasan has been found guilty of 13 counts of premeditated murder in connection with the 2009 attack on Fort Hood. A military jury returned the unanimous verdict. It also found Hasan guilty of 32 counts of attempted murder. This all means that Hasan could receive the death penalty. His court martial has featured graphic testimony from victims and witnesses and almost no defense from Hasan, who represented himself.

Kate McGee of member station KUT is at Fort Hood and joins us now. And, Kate, the jury returned this verdict after less than a day of deliberation. Give us the details.

KATE MCGEE, BYLINE: Right. Audie, the verdict came down after about seven hours of deliberation between yesterday and today, and they found him, as you said, unanimously guilty of 13 counts of murder and guilty of 32 counts of attempted murder. And in capital cases, the unanimous is important to the prosecution because it means Hasan could face the death penalty.

The verdict was delivered very quickly, very matter of fact, and the judge released the panel until Monday when they come back for the sentencing portion of the trial.

CORNISH: Now, what, if any, reaction was there from Nidal Hasan or from others in the courtroom?

MCGEE: According to the reporters who were in the courtroom today, Hasan had no reaction when the verdict was handed down. And family members, however, showed some emotion for the first time throughout this trial. The judge has been very adamant that the trial be conducted in a respectful way, reminded the gallery every day no outburst, no signs of approval or disapproval.

But today, leaving the gallery, family members hugged each other. Some were smiling, and some were crying. So it was the first sense of emotion from this trial and the toll that this trial has had on the families over the past three years.

CORNISH: As we mentioned, Hasan represented himself. He provided little defense, and the lawyers assigned to assist him asked to be removed from the case early on. So how did that play out over the course of the trial?

MCGEE: The standby counsel believed that Hasan was trying to get the death penalty, and they don't want to help him do that. But when the judge ordered them to remain beside him, they said they were going to appeal that process, but they never filed the appeal and remained beside him throughout the rest of the trial. Hasan had said from the beginning he wanted to represent himself, and nothing interfered with that. So there's not much leverage for appeal on those grounds.

And today, after the verdict was handed down, the judge asked him: Do you want to continue as your own lawyer? Because in sentencing, law can get more complicated, and he might not know when to object on his behalf or may not be able to get an appeal. But he still said he wanted to represent himself. So the standby counsel will remain by his side and are expected to return on Monday when sentencing begins.

CORNISH: And let's talk a little bit more about that sentencing phase. What is going to happen next?

MCGEE: Well, the sentencing phase, legal experts have been saying since the start, will be the most interesting part of this trial. The 13 members of the military panel will decide his sentence, not the judge. And there, prosecutors are expected to call 19 witnesses, including family members. They're expected to talk about the grief they have experienced, losing a loved one.

And as for Hasan, it's unclear what he's going to do during sentencing. It's his last chance to make a statement in this case. He's been relatively silent since opening statements. And the jury must vote unanimously to give him the death sentence if that's what they decide. If he's given the death penalty, the case heads to an appeals court, and that's required in military law for a capital case.

And there are five soldiers currently on death row at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. And the Army is very - very few death penalty cases have been executed. So it's - it will be interesting to see, if he does get the death penalty, what will happen once that goes through.

CORNISH: That's reporter Kate McGee with member station KUT speaking with us from Fort Hood. Kate, thank you.

MCGEE: Thank you.

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