Wednesday, August 28, 2013

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. 

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