By Rick Jervis, USA TODAY
FORT HOOD, Texas - Jury deliberations could begin today in the court-martial of Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people and injuring 31 others in a shooting spree here four years ago.
Hasan, who is representing himself, rested his defense Wednesday without calling a single witness. Military prosecutors called 89 witnesses and entered hundreds of pieces of evidence detailing the gory scene at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009, when prosecutors say Hasan opened fire on soldiers - killing 12 and one civilian - in a busy medical processing center.
Hasan, 42, has admitted to being the gunman in the shooting. If convicted, he faces the death penalty and could be the first person the U.S. military puts to death in five decades.
Military judge Col. Tara Osborn said Wednesday that closing arguments and instructions to the jury should begin Thursday. It could be one of the rare times in the trial where the 13-member panel will hear at length from Hasan, who has been mostly quiet throughout the proceedings.
More so than guilt, a central question in the four-year-old case has been whether Hasan gets the death penalty or life in prison, said Geoffrey Corn, a former Army judge advocate who teaches military and national security law at South Texas College of Law in Houston. Hasan has been passive through the guilt phase of the trial in order to reach the sentencing phase, where he would have more leeway in voicing his opinions and could talk about what motivated him to turn his gun on fellow soldiers, he said.
"He really believes what he did was right," Corn said. "But he's not allowed to talk about that in the guilt phase. He only gets to talk about that in the sentencing phase."