NEW: "The defense rests," Hasan tells the panel
Shooter calls no witnesses in sentencing phase
The sentencing phase for shooter Nidal Hasan could wrap up by midweek
13 officers will then decide whether Army Medical Corps officer should die for crimes
After weeks of mostly silence in his defense, convicted Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan had little more to say Tuesday in the capital sentencing phase of his court-martial, telling the jury panel three short words: “The defense rests.”
His brief remarks produced a momentary gasp in the courtroom. The 13-member panel that earlier convicted the defendant for premeditated murder will now return Wednesday morning, to decide whether the Army Medical Corps officer will live or die for his crimes.
The November 5, 2009, killings on this sprawling U.S. Army base by a lone gunman left 13 people dead and 32 others wounded, some severely.
Hasan, who serves as his own attorney, called no witnesses; nor did he offer any documentary evidence or explanation for why he should not die for his crimes. He also offered no explanation for his refusal to mount any defense in either the trial or sentencing phases. Judge Tara Osborn, an Army colonel, reluctantly granted his wishes, telling Hasan, “You’re the captain of your own ship.”
Tuesday morning saw the last of 19 victims and family members of those wounded or killed giving heartbreaking testimony: emotional recollections of lost loved ones, as well as injuries – physical and emotional – suffered nearly four years ago.
“The shooting and his killing is not going to destroy my family,” said Joleen Cahill, widow of Michael Cahill, the only civilian to die in the massacre. “He is not going to win,” she said firmly, referring to the defendant sitting just feet away.
Hasan asked no questions of the prosecution witnesses, who spoke separately on the stand. None directly addressed Hasan at the defense table or bothered to look at him while they testified. Hasan himself stared intently at all the witnesses during testimony, occasionally wiping his nose.
Three shooting victims, eight widows and widowers, six parents and an adult offspring were among those who fought tears to describe their physical and emotional suffering over the past two days.
Cahill recalled going numb when she was told about the killings. “A lot of that night was a blank.”
Also testifying Tuesday was Jerri Krueger, mother of Sgt. Amy Krueger, who was 29 at the time of the incident. She recalled what her daughter said the day of the September 11 attacks: “She said, ‘Mom, I’m joining the Army.’ I told her she couldn’t fight bin Laden all by herself, and she said, ‘Watch me.’ “
Krueger and her best friend enlisted the next day, and she had aspired to be a clinical psychologist.
“When a parent loses a child,” said Jerri Krueger, “it creates an irreplaceable void. I live with that every day.”
Hasan was convicted Friday of all 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder in connection with the shooting rampage at a Fort Hood deployment processing center. The incident occurred about a month before Hasan was to deploy to Afghanistan.
Wounded by two gunshots was Lt. Col. Randy Royer, a Reservist.
“I have mental issues; I take anxiety medication,” he told the panel Tuesday. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and dealing with crowds is especially tough. Visiting the local pharmacy, where chairs line the counter, reminds him of the setup at the center where the killings occurred. “I don’t do well with that,” he said softly.
Prosecutors presented “aggravating” evidence to demonstrate why Hasan deserves lethal injection.
The court-martial unexpectedly recessed mid-afternoon Monday, and Hasan’s standby attorney John Galligan told CNN that “health-related concerns promoted the delay.”
From his wheelchair, the defendant, who was wounded by military police in the attacks and paralyzed, repeatedly asked the bench Monday to take brief breaks from the proceedings.
Among the victims’ family members testifying Tuesday was Philip Warman, who was so distraught about losing his wife – 55-year-old Lt. Col Juanita Warman – that he testified that friends had to take his guns away for his own safety. And he abused alcohol almost constantly until the following June.
“I was falling apart,” he testified. “It was like something was ripped from me.”
Warman entered rehab and has not had a drink since. He earns Alcoholics Anonymous coins as reminders of his sobriety. He told the panel that he pushes the coins into the ground when he visits his wife’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery.