A military court Wednesday sentenced Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to death by injection for killing 13 soldiers and wounding more than 30 in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 that he said was to protect Islamist insurgents and Taliban militiamen from U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Hasan, an American-born Muslim, could be the first American soldier to be executed since 1961 if his sentence is upheld on appeal.
The 42-year-old Army psychiatrist wanted the death sentence in order to claim martyrdom. He had fired his attorneys and represented himself. He made no attempt to defend himself during the sentencing hearing and called no witnesses.
It took the jury of 13 retired military officers — who had convicted him of 45 counts of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder — only 2 1/2 hours to decide his fate.
Hasan also will be discharged from the Army and stripped of military pay.
The lead prosecutor beseeched jurors to impose the death sentence.
“He is a criminal. He is a cold-blooded murderer,” Col. Mike Mulligan said. “This is not his gift to God. This is his debt to society. This is the cost of his murderous rampage.”
Jolene Cahil, whose husband, Michael, was the only civilian among the 13 killed, applauded the sentence.
“I’m fine with it,” she said. “For the last three years, I have been making the commute to this courtroom … so today a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”
“Out of the ground come roses,” added Keely Vanacker, whose father was killed in the attack.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, tweeted, “Hasan will face the ultimate justice, but this can’t bring back the American heroes killed in the terrorist attack at Fort Hood.”
The Obama administration refused to classify the shooting as a terrorist attack, even though Hasan shouted the Islamist cry of “Allah akbar,” (God is great) as he shot his victims. The White House calls the massacre “workplace violence.”
Since the military justice system requires an automatic appeal in a lengthy process, it could be years or even decades before he is put to death.
The verdict will go to an Army general who will review the court proceedings and decide whether to accept the guilty verdict, which could take a few months.
On Nov. 5, 2009, Hasan opened fire on troops at a medical clinic on Foot Hood where they were waiting to get checkups before deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was shot in the back by an officer and is paralyzed from the waist down.
Hasan spent weeks planning the attack, including buying the handgun and videotaping a sales clerk showing him how to change the magazine.
He visited a gun range outside Austin, where he asked instructors to teach him how to reload with speed and precision.
The instructor suggested Hasan turn off the lights and practice loading while sitting on a sofa under the low light of a television.
When he prepared his murderous rampage, Hasan avoided suspicion by stuffing paper towels in his pants pockets to muffle the sound of rattling ammunition as he entered the base.
Soldiers testified that Hasan reloaded his gun so rapidly it was impossible to stop him.
Investigators recovered 146 shell casings inside and outside the medical building. Many shells were found outside the building where Hasan shot fleeing soldiers in the back.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.