FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) – Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was convicted of murder Friday for the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting rampage that killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others at Fort Hood, a sprawling Army post in central Texas. The penalty phase begins Monday, during which prosecutors will try to convince jurors to sentence Hasan to death.
Here’s a look at what to expect:
WHEN DOES THE PENALTY PHASE START?
It will begin on Monday. Hasan can face the death penalty because the jury voted unanimously to convict him on multiple counts of premeditated murder.
HOW DOES THE PENALTY PHASE WORK?
It’s like a mini-trial. The prosecution will present evidence showing that the death penalty is warranted for Hassan and call survivors of the shootings and relatives of those killed who will explain how their lives have been impacted. Hassan may offer mitigating evidence in hopes of avoiding the death penalty, though he represented himself during the trial and remained largely silent. He did, however, successfully object during the testimony of a victim who had undergone 20 surgeries and had three more to go after being shot during the attack. Hasan argued the information was more appropriate during the sentencing phase and trial judge Col. Tara Osborn agreed.
WHAT WILL PROSECUTORS DO?
They are expected to call more than a dozen witnesses, including relatives of soldiers slain in the attack. Their testimonies could take several days.
WHAT WILL HASAN DO?
It’s unclear. Hasan rested his case without calling a single witness or testifying in his own defense. He did, however, give a brief opening statement in which he said the evidence would show he was the attack’s shooter. Whether he will forgo his last opportunity to rebut prosecutors’ case remains to be seen, as does if he will continue to go it alone. Hasan could keep representing himself or elect to use the two military lawyers assigned to help him, who have been on-standby throughout the case. They have already said they believe Hasan wants the death penalty.
WHAT WILL JURORS HAVE TO DECIDE?
Thirteen officers from around the country who hold Hasan’s rank or higher are serving on his case’s jury. Its members must vote unanimously in order for him to receive the death penalty.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THAT?
In all military death penalty cases, the entire record is scrutinized by appeals courts for the Army and the armed forces. If Hasan is sentenced to death and his case affirmed by appeals courts, he could ask the U.S. Supreme Court for a review or file motions in federal civilian courts. The president, as the military commander in chief, must sign off on a death sentence.
HOW OFTEN ARE DEATH SENTENCES HANDED DOWN IN MILITARY COURT?
Death sentences are extremely rare in the military court system, which hasn’t executed an active-duty U.S. soldier since 1961. Military appeals courts have overturned 11 of the 16 death sentences handed down in the last three decades _ and that doesn’t include Senior Airman Andrew P. Witt, who is one of five men on military death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., but whose case was ordered reopened this month by an appeals court.
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