Saturday, August 31, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

How Hasan slipped through the cracks of security

Investigations reveal deadly errors

Americans gave up their privacy in ways that are only now becoming understood after more than a decade of war, only to see a betrayal of colossal proportions in a merciless onslaught of soldier on soldier violence perpetrated at Ft. Hood on Nov. 5, 2009, in the name of Islamic jihad.

How did it happen?
FBI headquarters

The facts uncovered in two government investigations will figure heavily in a massive civil lawsuit filed in District Court in the District of Columbia seeking redress for the victims of what the Department of Defense refuses to call anything other than “workplace violence.”

Families of 13 slain in premeditated murder and 32 others wounded in an attempt to snuff out their lives seek to prove negligence on the part of the directors of the FBI, CIA, the Secretary of Defense, and the malice of the former psychiatrist, Nidal Malik Hasan, a man convicted of murder and sentenced to death by a General Court Martial.

Those who sat through the day to day evolutions of the trial of Nidal Malik Hasan witnessed a colossal struggle between prosecutors, who were bent on getting as much evidence of Hasan's murderous, twisted religious fervor on the record as possible, and the judge, Colonel Tara Osborn, who made adroit use of the Rules of Courts Martial and evidence to limit the trial record to only those items of proof that would lead to a conviction through strict proof that Hasan is the shooter who is guilty of 13 specifications of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder.

In the end, the abundant evidence considered by a panel of 13 senior officers focused not so much on the why, but on the how, the ways in which Hasan arranged to launch his handgun attack based on jihad.

In the civil suit, Manning, v. McHugh,, in which more than 180 plaintiffs will seek damages from the government, there is abundant evidence supplied by two massive unclassified government reports that explain exactly how investigators from the FBI and most other alphabet soup security agencies overlooked the signals that Hasan and other members of the Islamic community of jihad warriors sent each other over a period of years.

Offices of the National Security Agency
Judge Osborn ruled jurors could see evidence and hear testimony about internet searches Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan made – some on the day he gunned down 13 unarmed victims – for material that justifies deadly violence in the name of jihad. Power Point presentations Hasan made while training as a psychiatrist in 2007-2008 were made to third parties and “will only confuse the issue.” All such evidence was excluded from court proceedings and redacted from stipulations of fact previously agreed by Hasan and the Army prosecutors.

Similarly, e-mails Hasan exchanged with the fiery Imam, Anwar al Awlaki, in which he urged the Army officer to engage in violent actions against fellow soldiers, were excluded for the same reasons.

A commission chaired by former FBI Director William H. Webster makes an intensive study of how investigators failed to see the significance in Hasan's correspondence with Awlaki, a leading Islamic cleric who taught principles of Islam with a slant toward jihad at a mosque in San Diego and also at Falls Church, Virginia, before he quit his native America for Yemen. Both he and his son were killed in rocket attacks launched by unmanned aerial vehicles last year.
The Pentagon 

Logs of Hasan's e-mails to the radical Imam, who was a native of Las Cruces, New Mexico, carried the abbreviated reference to the sender as a “comm. Officer” at Walter Reed Army Hospital. The label was misinterpreted by agents as “communications officer,” a post they thought might give him access to intelligence reports. Instead, it meant “commissioned officer.” They chose not to make him the subject of a joint task force investigation for that reason.

One may read about it in an unclassified report published in 2012 at this URL:

Confirmation of this slip-up may be found in a Senate report issued in 2011 by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee chaired by Sen. Joseph Lieberman at this URL:

In that report, the authors make note of the chilling fact that the chairman of psychiatry at Walter Reed wrote that Hasan had done research on Islamic beliefs that contained “extraordinary potential to inform national policy and military strategy.”

According to the lead plaintiff attorney in Manning v. McHugh, Reed Rubenstein, “A U.S. Army major is writing to this imam and essentially asking for religious sanction to kill American soldiers, and the FBI's Washington field office doesn't even interview the man or make a phone call to his superiors. It's utterly incomprehensible.”

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Only 15 show up for monumental tax hike hearing

Waco – Members of the McLennan Commissioners Court move toward a final vote on a budget and a very large tax increase this morning, but with only a few voices of protest ringing in their ears.

They've heard it all before.

Only a few people showed up Tuesday evening at a public hearing to protest what appears to be a fait accompli, a proposal of raising property taxes to the maximum of the rollback rate, which is 53.5293 cents per $100 property valuation.

That is as high as the court can raise it without triggering an election. The current tax rate is 48.4258 cents. That would result in a raise of 5.1 cents.

At the current rate, a residential tax bill would be $484.25 on a $100,000 home. If the new tax rate is approved, that tax bill would be $535.29, for an increase of $51.04.

Most people don't have $50 to spare, according to members of the Waco Tea Party.

The tax hike is not taking place in a vacuum. One lady from the rural city of Lorena said her home is valued at $7,000 more this year than last. Her tax bill for the coming year is up across the board for all taxing entities.

You're going to tax me out,” she said.

Two key issues that drew the ire of tax payers were the debt service on the for-profit Jack Harwell Detention Center, a $49 million public project financed by non-voter approved revenue bonds in 2009, which has yet to produce a profit, and a $l.5 million annual contribution to the joint City of Waco-McLennan County Economic Development Corporation, which lures multinational corporations into key industrial locations locally.

Tea Party co-founder Mike Simon cited a dramatic increase in jail expense that has seen the total operation budget balloon from $750,000 to $6 million over a period of only a few years.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Death to Hasan – jurors find no mitigation

Ft. Hood – At 5 minutes until two p.m., the president of the General Court Martial handed the bailiff the sentence, the judge read it, and then the Colonel who presided over the jury as the most senior officer began to read aloud:

“Major Nidal Malik Hasan, we have unanimously found the following aggravating factors...,” and read the names of the 12 additional victims of his deadly Nov. 5, 2009 onslaught who fell victim after Michael Pearson lay on a desk and breathed his last.

“...It is my duty to inform you...this court martial finds no extenuating or mitigating circumstances outweigh the aggravating factors.”

Their recommendation is that he “forfeit all pay and allowances, be dismissed from the service of the U.S. Army, and be put to death.”

With that, at 2 p.m. sharp, Judge (Col.) Tara Osborn thanked the 13 members of the General Court Martial and told them “If anyone tries to talk to you, you may tell them, I don't have to talk to you.”

She told them they may now return to their homes, or to the places of duty.

Maj. Hasan sat in stoic silence, staring straight ahead, according to observers who were present in the courtroom.

The Court Martial was adjourned at 14:05.

Hasan silent as jurors begin death deliberations

Ft. Hood – After a 45-minute argument requesting his execution, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan said he had nothing to declare before jurors received instructions in their verdict for life or death.

Moments before, lead Prosecutor Col. Michael Mulligan summed up his argument by saying, “You cannot offer what you do not own...He is not a martyr...He is a criminal. He is a cold-blooded murderer.”

Though Hasan acted for religious reasons, said Judge (Col.) Tara Osborn, the panel may not consider his religious beliefs. They must stick to the facts of the case, and first determine unanimously if the government has proven an aggravating factor of multiple murders after the finding of guilt for the first specification of premeditated murder, that of PFC Michael Pearson, whose death moans and the rattle of his last breath was preserved on a 911 tape played more than once during the trial.

Jurors found Hasan guilty of all 13 specifications of premeditated murder and premeditated attempted murder on Monday.

Nevertheless, as she instructed the members, the judge said, “Each member has the power to not vote for a death sentence.”

Neither may they consider the opinions of the prosecutor's pointed argument, in which he detailed the manner of how each family of a dead soldier learned they had been forever deprived of their loved one. The judge said they must consider the facts of the case only, and first decide if the evidence of mitigation or extenuation do not outweigh the aggravating factor of multiple murder, a matter upon which they have previously agreed unanimously.

In each case of premeditated murder, Col. Mulligan concluded, “Two officers in Class A uniforms” came to the door “with a death notification.”

Many of the family members were left in tragic suspense, such as the mother of Michael Pearson, who was originally notified he had been wounded. “When she saw the death information on the TV increase from 12 to 13, she knew. She did not have to be told,” Col. Mulligan said.

He also pointed out that a female soldier, already mortally wounded, was shot in such a way that the trajectory of the bullet indicated that she could only have been shot as she attempted to crawl to cover.

Rhetorically, he asked, “What do you call an officer who shoots the wounded as they try to crawl to cover?”
He pointed out that “You have already found the aggravating factor.”

He urged the jurors, “We ask you now to make him accountable.”

He picked the time; he picked the place; he picked the victims...There can be no compromise. One unanimous vote...”

The prosecutor described the process of finding a recommendation of punishment as that of passing through four gates.

Gate One, he said, calls for one unanimous vote of guilt, “through which you have already passed.”

Gate Two requires a unanimous finding of the aggravating factor – multiple murders with premeditation.

Gate Three is the consideration of mitigation and extenuation. “You must decide what a life is worth. You must decide what an arm is worth...”

To pass through Gate Four, he explained, “There can be no compromise.” He called for 13 united votes for a penalty of death.

The judge instructed the jurors that they can make recommendations of any penalty from a reprimand and censure; a fine; forfeiture of all pay and allowances, remarking that Hasan is paid $7,283 per month; punitive discharge, the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge for an enlisted man; confinement for life without eligibility for parole, or the penalty of death by lethal injection.

In mitigation or extenuation, she told them, they should consider Hasan's age; his record of service; military medals and awards; education as a chemist, a doctor and a psychiatrist; his physical impairment; his demeanor during the trial; “and any other matter.”

The sentence is recommended by jurors. Any punishment must be approved by the commanding general who convened the General Court Martial; an automatic appeal will be ordered, and in the event of a death sentence, the President must sign the death order following a possible review by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

World waits to see if Hasan will make a statement

An Army official briefs the world's media 
Ft. Hood – The world is waiting to see if Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan will make a statement before he is sentenced for the massacre he carried out on Nov. 5, 2009, against fellow soldiers. A jury of senior officers found him guilty of all specifications of the murder of 13 and the attempted murder  32.

The right of allocution, the opportunity to offer mitigating or extenuating evidence, is granted by the Rules of Courts Martial.

In Hasan's case, he is facing a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole, but members of the jury could impose a death sentence by their unanimous vote.

In the sentencing phase of the trial, he declined to allow his standby counsel to enter mitigating evidence on his behalf. 

The judge ruled that he is “the captain of his own ship” in granting his wish. He has acted as his own counsel throughout the month-long trial, though his defense counsel have been standing by in case he changed his mind.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Prosecution rests in Hasan trial sentencing

Ft. Hood – Michael Cahill fought back when the deadly onslaught of pistol fire commenced on Nov. 5, 2009.

Witnesses said they overheard him shout, “Is anyone going to stop this guy? A retired Chief Warrant Officer, Cahill worked as a civilian in the Soldier Readiness Center where Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan targeted only soldiers wearing the Army's combat uniform.

He has been pronounced guilty unanimously by a 13-member General Court Martial of 13 specifications of premeditated murder and an additional charge of 32 specifications of premeditated attempted murder.

Chief Cahill was a “provider” who worked in a cubicle near the rear of the building where he performed medical tasks as a Physician's Assistant. He was wearing civilian clothing when he grabbed a folding chair and charged Hasan, using it as a battering ram to attempt to knock him off his feet. He died from multiple gunshot wounds, one of which pierced his body in the upper shoulder, plummeted down into his abdomen, and caused enough damage to stop his vital functions immediately.

His widow testified today, saying that she is slowly piecing her life and the lives of her family back together, now that they have lost “the glue that kept her family together.” A total of 20 witnesses testified as to the impact Hasan's admitted murderous assault has had on their their lives over the past two days.

Judge (Col.) Tara Osborn recessed Court for the morning when the prosecution rested its case in the sentencing phase.

It reconvened at 2 p.m. for the defense portion, which will consist on no witnesses and no evidence, according to Maj. Hasan.

It is unknown whether Hasan will testify on his own behalf.

Monday, August 26, 2013

County officials 'aw shucks' their way through historic tax raise to balance budget, cover elephant in the living room

 Waco – The County Judge has his work cut out for him in what will likely be an explosive public hearing about the budget and setting the property tax rate for 2013-14 at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, August 27.

Scott Felton is a banker, retired, brought back from the bench to take an aging jailer's place as County Judge after he made a hasty retirement when money troubles loomed on the horizon in 2012.

Judge Jim Lewis held court for more than 20 years after working his way up from a turnkey at the County Jail, moving, shaking, putting together majority votes on the five-man court with routine ease – until securities markets collapsed, the dollar plummeted, and like most businesses, the financial affairs of McLennan County, Texas, headed for the toilet.

When Lewis left, Felton stepped in as an appointee, and he faces an unpalatable task in budget balancing – to raise taxes to the “roll back” rate by 8.5 cents per $100 valuation – merely to balance an out of whack budget.

The truth?

It won't cover the next year's shortfall, and he explained that in banker's terms to the local establishment daily newspaper, the Waco “Tribune-Herald,” in a very business-like, rock-ribbed Republican way.

Said Judge Felton, who admits he's a novice at local government, “Well, just being new on the court, I was surprised to see we had this declining fund balance. As a former banker, there’s a couple things you look at (to gauge financial viability): net worth and how much they’re going into reserves. It appears we’re going to have $12.5 million in the fund balance at the end of 2013. That’s a lot of money, but not relative to the budget, and if you’re looking at your annual expenditures in the $70 million range — well, that’s $6.5 million or so per month, so we really only have a couple of months of reserves at $12.5 million.”

The elephant in the living room that no one talks about is a privately operated, built-on-spec jail the Commissioners Court went out on a limb to finance with revenue bonds that require no voter approval - $49 million worth – to build a jail they can't fill with other peoples' prisoners. It' a for-profit scheme involving a ministerial duty, one prescribed by the Texas Constitution.

Last budget year, Legendary analysts looked at the previous 5 years of budget surplus for road and bridge precincts.  The numbers were arrived at by taking reported expenditures (what they actually spent) from the amount budgeted.  No such analysis has been undertaken since but at the time the difference in what they actually spent and what they told the taxpayers they needed was more than $24 million for the 5 year period.

How to meet the debt service? They fill it with their own “overflow” prisoners at $45.50 per day, financed from that reserve fund he just lamented spending.

How did they come to need an overflow jail? They closed a courthouse annex jail that houses some 350 prisoners, faked a consent order form the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, and brazened that out in the latest Sheriff's race of 2012 when it turned out to be a bald-faced lie.

The next softball question lobbed in from the merchants' daily sheet?

What was the biggest eye-opener he confronted as a newcomer to local politics and the exigencies of what has been described as a study in anarchy, the various constitutional offices of a Texas courthouse.

I find it alarming the amount of statutes that drive a lot of our expenses, especially when it comes to our correctional institutions. For instance, there are ratios that have to be met in terms of jailers to inmates. The other thing is the amount of effort and process and money that it takes from the time someone is arrested till they go through the bonding process, then through the indictment process and then into the incarceration process. That’s an area I haven’t been exposed to at all. When I was talking about seeing this financial trend go the wrong way, I went to look at what was causing it.”

None of this happened in a vacuum.

Texas law bifurcates the bean counting task. The County Treasurer is an elected official, a post that by local option may be appointive and beholden to the Commissioners Court.

On the other hand, the County Auditor is appointed by the District Judges, the trial Courts of original jurisdiction.

So, when the long-term auditor suddenly resigned and retired in 2012, they hired a man out of an east Texas County who wasted no time prompting a Texas Rangers investigation of the County Tax Assessor-Collector's dealings in used pickup trucks purchased, then sold at very favorable rates to employees who used them to travel between satellite offices, thence home.

When the trial was over, the man, a seasoned Democrat, drew time and a lengthy period of community supervision.

And then there's the jail's staff-to-inmate ratio. According to multiple sources, the staff is down by 16 certified corrections officers, which might not cause an unbalance in prisoner ratio set by statutes prompted by an historic set of federal inmate lawsuits, but does play hell with days off, sick time, vacation and overtime.
McLennan County advertises openings in the jail staff routinely; people fill out applications, and just as routinely, no one gets hired.

It's kind of hard to commit to hiring new employees when you don't know what your budget will be.

Here are some samples of comments gleaned from McLennan County's own Facebook page:

Position: Correction officer/jailer

What are the qualifications?

Would love to but I have been applying for the last 15 years and never get selected for an interview.

I've had an app in for a couple months, waiting on an interview.....

Take your time filling this position, McLennan County. You're on a roll so keep it classy!

Already applied. Just waiting.....

Gee I wonder if I would Qualify?”

Hasan's victim testifies in sentencing phase

Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler, Jr., (r) receiving recognition in a ceremony during convalescence
Ft. Hood – The sergeant had only one last detail to tend to before he headed for Officer's Candidate School at Ft. Benning and an eventual return to duty at this post.

He had other plans. He planned on a proposal of marriage to his girlfriend. They are married now, but “My wife has to lead me around,” he said in response to a prosecutor's questions. “It makes it hard to have a normal relationship.”

On Nov. 5, 2009, he testified, he was sitting in the waiting room at the Soldier Readiness Center when four shots from Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's handgun devastated his life.

A college graduate with a bachelor's degree in International Relations, he now has the cognitive abilities of a high school student in the 10th or 11th grade.

He is paralyzed on his left side as a result of a bullet wound that caused the immediate removal of 20 percent of his brain. His left arm and hand are paralyzed; it's the first thing you notice as he limps to the witness chair because his left foot is also paralyzed.

He has experienced an additional 10 surgical procedures on his brain over an initial 11-month period of hospitalization following the 2009 attack. There will be more surgeries over the next 10 to 12 years.

His vision is afflicted with blind spots, and he has no peripheral vision. He is unable to drive a car.

He is unable to pick up his infant child from the floor. He is unable to help with household chores.

It is doubtful he will ever hold a job.

His mental state is prone to depression and episodes of anger. “I'm a lot angrier and a lot darker than I used to be.”

His prognosis?

“Eventually I will succumb to my wounds.”

The future holds a bleak prospect for Sgt. Zeigler. He is due to be medically retired in the near future.

Will he ever be able to function independently?

“I don't know.”

Sgt. Zeigler is one of 19 in-person witnesses scheduled to testify today in the sentencing phase of the General Court Martial of Nidal Malik Hasan, M.D., an individual who has served a total of 12 years of broken service in the Army, beginning in 1995, who refused to deploy to Afghanistan because of his devotion to Islam.

According to Col. Steven Henricks, he used his training as a medical doctor to direct his fire at the most vulnerable areas of his victims' bodies in an effort to sustain the maximum amount of damage.

When the prosecution passed the witness, Major Hasan said he has no questions for Sgt. Zeigler.

When dismissed by Judge (Col.) Tara Osborn, Sgt. Zeigler stumbled as he made his way down the step and a half riser from the witness chair to leave the courtroom by a door the bailiff held for him.

With a great deal of effort, he half-stepped and skipped, then caught himself and prevented an embarrassing and dangerous fall.

In the beginning of the day's testimony, the judge admonished the gallery that they should remain quiet and conduct themselves in a calm, quiet and dignified manner. If unable to do that, they should leave.

This concludes this observer's news report for the day.

Top Kick: Cable network shifted the war paradigm

A 'shoot house' at Ft. Hood, where soldiers are conditioned in the sights and sounds of war
Ft. Hood – If there's a battle for hearts and minds – and there is – it starts with a timely dose of reliable information.

So, this 20-year war kicked off bright and early in the last decade of the 20th century with the introduction of a brand-new way of getting the big picture, according to a Top Kick sergeant who cannot be quoted for attribution because the Army's rules prohibit that.

Nevertheless, the truth is this, he said. “I wrote a paper explaining that, prior to the formation of CNN, I and the rest of the Armed Forces were stuck with the Rathers and the Cronkites, the networks and the newspapers.”

Anyone of an age will remember Walter Cronkite standing in the midst of the chaos of Tet – the Vietnamese lunar New Year, in Februrary of 1968 - Tu Do Street, Saigon, declaring, “After dark, there are no friendlies. After dark, it's all Indian country.”

People who were at the White House that day quoted President Lyndon Johnson, who reportedly said, “It's all over.” Asked what he meant, the President said, “That's the end of the war, and the end of my administration.”


“The most credible man in the world just said so.”

But with Desert Storm, the advent of General Norman Schwarzkopf's briefings changed all that, said the Top Kick.

One will recall video renderings of smart bombs and blockbusters devastating targets, bridges disintegrating in the paths of on-coming enemy trucks and tanks – the works – while CNN patiently gave the General his head.

Suddenly, the war was no longer sound bytes and shattered fractions of time captured on the small screen, cutting and dissolving to other venues, other stories with the speed of a kaleidoscope. Folks were treated to genuine after-action reports and critiques with the top brass. You heard the men at the top of a corporate pyramid groan, heard them laugh at the general's jokes, shared quiet moments with them in solemn contemplation.

It gets to you.

Things have become even more unpredictable today, says the Top Kick.

With the advent of the internet, smart phones, video, YouTube, “Who can be a journalist now?” he asked.


He nods vigorously. “That's it. Anybody can get the job done.”

His point.

They do. Nothing that has happened in this trial was much other than a foregone conclusion before the sun set on Nov. 5, 2009, other than what would hapen if the convicted mass murderer, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, would survive his wounds, or not.

When he did, it became clear that he would receive a show trial, and now that he has, he's found a way to commit suicide on television, as his ignominiously fired lawyers – politically correct term for whom is “standby counsel” - have pointed out repeatedly.

What did Hasan's attack do to the Armed Forces?

“He made us doubt each other, a little bit,” the Top Kick said.

What happened?

Training and conditioning took over. Most people who were wounded mentioned in their testimony that when the shooting started in the Soldier Readiness Center on Nov. 5, 2009, they just assumed it was a training exercise.

In fact, Maj. Hasan convinced some people at a graduation exercise next door that's what it was, that his 5.7 x 28 mm FN Herstal was actually a paint ball gun - until they saw the dozens of wounded and dead people he had mowed down in the deadly onslaught.

Then, people shook off their shock, began to give first aid and to triage the wounded. They saved many lives. 

But there was another adjustment, in the field.

“We began to trust the rank, trust the doctrine,” he recalled, a distant look in his eyes, which were focused just over my left shoulder. He was obviously looking back a decade, and beyond.

“You know how that works.” I mentioned that my military service was in the Navy.

“Okay. Why doubt anything the Chief says?” he challenged. “The Chief runs the Navy.”

True story. The enlisted pay grade of E-7 and above, or Chief Petty Officer, makes all the day to day decisions that make up the mechanics of running a ship, an air squadron, a shore installation. The chief doesn't make the big decisions, but he can sure tell you what is what as to how and when it can be done, once you've made up your mind what you want to do. A Chief has enough say so the make an Admiral change a lot of officers' minds – any old day.

We agreed.

Next question.

Is this a war that is being carried out within the borders of our own nation?

That's where the Top Kick showed his Command Presence, that indefinable esprit de corps that keeps men moving. He answered that question with a light-hearted anecdote about “some guy” out in West Texas.

The punch line.

“It turns out he told the cops, oh, come on out to the place. Dad and I will be glad to show you around. As it turned out, he didn't have a gun safe; he had a gun vault with shelves upon shelves of ammunition - and his own shoot house.”

And then the smoke break broke up. We went our separate ways, no illusions to burden us.  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hasan enters life or death phase of court martial

Ft. Hood – The judge could not hide her emotions as she spoke directly to the man who condemned himself with a pistol equipped with laser sights, and then made no effort to defend himself against the most serious of charges.

Though Judge (Col.) Tara Osborn spoke as a professional, a trial judge, seated on a somber mahogany-toned dais elevated far above the heads and shoulders of everyone else, she could not hide the basic decency and kind intonations of a sensible, middle-aged American woman.

Major Hasan,” she said, beginning very carefully, “this is the phase where the members decide whether you should live or you should die.”

The former Army psychiatrist who had only a couple of hours before heard the verdict of a 13-member jury of senior officers convict him of the capital murder of 13 of his fellow soldiers on Nov. 5, 2009, and the attempted premeditated murder of an additional 32 persons, had defended himself after dismissing a retired Army judge, and then a top notch defense team of two Lt. Colonels and a Major.

His defense consisted of absolutely nothing. He called no witnesses, made very few attempts at cross examining the witnesses who testified against him, and made no closing argument in his own behalf.

Just because you represented yourself is no reason you cannot have representation,” Col. Osborn continued. “You understand you will be better off with an attorney to represent you.”

Yes, ma'am,” said Hasan, with all due respect. Listening to the tone and timbre of his voice, you get the idea he really is genuinely respectful. He listened calmly as she explained that his standby counsel are ready to resume their professional responsibilities at any time, that they will do their best to try to help preserve his natural life, a life he cannot now avoid living in the penitentiary without the possibility of parole in even the best case scenario.

He is paralyzed from the middle of his chest to his lower extremities, wheelchair bound and nerve-damaged in both his arms and hands as a result of a gunfight with two civilian military policemen who stopped his murderous rampage at a medical clinic with their 9 millimeter pistols.

He is dependent on others for even his most basic needs.

I think it is unwise for you to represent yourself,” the judge continued. Without proper legal training, he is unable to determine when to object in order to preserve the record in his favor.
He did not relent. He said he wishes to continue, and the judge remarked that the record should reflect that the decision was “made with full knowledge and understanding.” She went a little bit further by pointing out that without legal training, he is not a lawyer, and that there is no possibility of his raising the point on appeal that he had ineffective counsel if he continues to represent himself.

He has not been threatened or treated in any abusive manner; he has not been promised anything, or in any way influenced by others, she determined for the record through her questions.

And then the afternoon's hearing into the procedures and evidentiary requirements of the Government's case for a death sentence began.

There was a long and pettifogging discussion of the Major's actual date of service as an enlisted man, his pay grade, and the date upon which he assumed his duties as a commissioned officer. He will hold the rank of Major until he is sentenced and the court martial is complete.

At that point, the judge, the prosecutors, and Hasan began to sound like the career military people they are, their discussion veering into the military arcana of what is professionally referred to as “G-1,” which is Army for the personnel department, their dialogue peppered with references to the initials of bureaucratic phrases.

Col. Mike Mulligan, the lead prosecutor, informed the judge that he will call 19 in-person witnesses and revisit the stipulated expected testimony of Officer Mark Todd, the man who ended the gunfight with Hasan and finally kicked the wicked little 5.7 x 28 mm FN Herstal semiautomatic out of his hands, flipped him over on his stomach and cuffed his hands behind his back, then flipped him back over so the medics could treat his wounds and preserve his life.

How long will that take?

It is possible I could go through them in one day,” Col. Mulligan replied.

Then began the tedious and meticulous process of the examination of the exhibits that will be shown, which are many snapshots of the victims and their families.

I have said before that I will not admit any pictures which might have a cumulative effect,” the judge declared.

She is carefully preserving the record so that it will not be shown on appeal that the repetitive nature of near-identical photos had a cumulative or prejudicial effect on the jurors.
How is this picture different from that one? The judge asked it over and over again during the long and droning afternoon's hearing until, finally, Hasan himself interjected by saying – several times - “You honor, I have no objections to these pictures.”

Thank you for that, Major Hasan,” the judge said in a composed tone that nevertheless carried some air of dismissal.

He didn't take the hint. He repeated himself several times, as if he did not understand that now, as a convicted murderer, his social cachet is ultimately diminished in the eyes of the world.

Finally, in a nervous way, Hasan repeated his caveat, that he has no objection to the pictures, their repetitive or cumulative nature, and he showed some considerable pique by saying, “So we can just knock all this off.”

Thank you, Major Hasan,” the judge replied, which is a very polite and militarily courteous way of saying that's all very well, and that what has been said is really all we will need to say about all that - for now.

Thus chastened, Hasan then spoke only when she addressed him. 

Staff Sgt Robert Bales has no memory of killing 16 Afghans

Friday, August 23, 2013

Hasan jury unanimous – guilty of all murder charges

Ft. Hood – You knew there was a verdict when Judge (Col.) Tara Osborn called the jury back into the courtroom for the second time in less than a half hour – at 12:32 CST.

She told members of the gallery, “We have had no outbursts from the gallery throughout the trial, and the Court thanks you.” She then admonished them, as she has every day for the past three weeks, to behave in a “calm, quiet and dignified manner.”

And then she had the bailiff hand her the 23-page worksheet that contained the jury's findings on all 13 specifications of premeditated murder and 32 specifications of premeditated attempted murder, poring over each page to make sure it was in due form.

The most senior member of the jury, a black woman named Col. Keller,
read aloud, “Nidal Malik Hasan, the panel has reached by a unanimous vote a verdict of guilty of all specifications on the original (murder) specifications and on the additional (attempted murder) specifications, guilty.”

The unanimous finding of guilt on the capital murder charges clears the way for a sentence of death by lethal injection. Hasan will be entitled to an automatic appeal to the appeals courts.

Representatives of the national media, about 75 in number, scampered for their phones and cameras and satellite trucks on a dead run.

There was a brief visit to the courtroom a half hour earlier to correct the spelling of the name of the President of the Court Martial and to correct a typographical error on one of the additional specifications. Following those administrative details, there was much speculation among seasoned reporters that a verdict would be coming shortly.

When they heard the judge's admonishment against any outbursts or displays of emotion, you could have heard a pin drop.

Sentencing phase of the trial will proceed at 9 a.m. on Monday, August 26.

Hasan jurors' task in sorting out reality of murders

The red X marks the spot where Hasan stood to rain lead on his victims
- Drawing by TV sketch artist Brigitte Woosley

Judge's instructions exacting, precise

Ft. Hood – Listening to PFC Michael Pearson die on the 911 audio made after Nidal Malik Hasan shot him and more than 30 other persons is a painful experience. Pearson moans and wails as his life's blood pours out of his body and a civilian employee sits under a desk, a phone in her hand. In maddening persistence, an emergency operator continues to ask inane question after inane question.

“What is your emergency?” “What is your location?” “What is your name?” “Where is he shot?” “Is the shooter still there?”

It's not a simple task, but it's exacting enough to make your hair hurt while you listen to the judge rattle off the jury instructions that go with the lengthy set of murder specifications that go with the alleged murder of Private Pearson and 12 other soldiers and civilians.

Thirteen senior field grade Army officers are sitting in judgement of a medical officer, a psychiatrist accused of capital murder of 13 unarmed persons – most of them men and women with whom he was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in violation of his beliefs as a devout devotee of Islam – the religion named for “peace.”

Here are some highlights of what Judge (Col.) Tara Osborn detailed as necessary findings to either convict or acquit the accused of any of 13 counts of premeditated murder or 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.

The Government has to have proven that Hasan, and no other person, attacked Mr. Pearson; that Mr. Pearson is dead; that his death resulted from an act committed by the accused, the unlawful discharge of a firearm; that it was an unlawful act, a murder committed in violation of Article 118 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice; and that the act was premeditated.

For each of the additional victims, the judge explained, the same elements of proof apply, the only difference being the name of the victim.

Premeditation in legal terms is not presupposed by any particular length of time. Proving that an actor raised a weapon and discharged it by pulling the trigger is enough to prove premeditation, the judge said.

In the cases of attempted premeditated murder, it is only necessary to prove that the actor went through the same motions, but failed to cause the death of the intended victim in the attempted murder through “a substantial step in the direction of killing.”

“Your duty is to determine the facts, apply the facts and determine the guilt or innocence of the accused,” she said. In all cases of conflict, they must trust her word and no one else's as to the black and white letter of the law.

Evidentiary elements are just as exacting.

The fact that the accused remained silent, did not tetify in his own behalf, and made no closing statement is to be ignored. No inference of guilt may be made from his exercising his absolute right to remain silent.

Intent may be determined either by direct evidence, as in witness testimony or personal observation, or by circumstantial evidence from which one may reasonably infer a conclusion, such as the fact of wet streets reasonably considered as an indication of recent rainfall.

The performance of a military duty can be considered mitigating evidence, but, the judge was careful to point out, jurors may not consider an inference of bad character from the fact that the actor shot with a gun a pregnant female soldier while she pleaded, “My baby, my baby!”

“You may not conclude from this evidence that the accused is a bad person.”

If the Government has failed to prove any of these elements, they must acquit, and then take up the consideration of lesser charges, such as voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, or aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

To assess the death penalty in the punishment phase, the panel must have made a finding by unanimous decision of guilt for premeditated murder of at least one victim, and murder, premeditated or not, of an additional person, according to an Army spokesman.