Death penalty for Fort Hood shooter – judge

A MILITARY judge has recommended that an army psychiatrist, accused of killing 13 people in a shooting spree on a Texas army base, should be court-martialled and face the death penalty.

Colonel James Pohl told commanders that Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s case should be a capital offence because he “found reasonable grounds to believe an aggravating factor exists to authorise capital punishment,” lawyers said after a hearing.

The army did not explain what that factor was, but military lawyer Frank Spinner suggested it was because of the presence of multiple murder victims.

Commanders must now review Colonel Pohl’s report, which remains in the hands of military authorities, but they are widely expected to go along with his recommendations when they order a trial, expected early next year.

Colonel Pohl’s decision didn’t surprise Hasan’s lawyer.

“All along I’ve told you my belief is the army is hell-bent in trying Major Hasan as quickly as they can and I believe they want to kill him,” he said.

Hasan, who was paralysed from the chest down in the incident on November 5, 2009, sat implacably in his wheelchair, wearing a camouflage uniform and light green watch cap when he appeared in court on Monday.

Under military law, Colonel Pohl must hand the case off to a general, either on Fort Hood or another post, now that he has recommended it to go to a court-martial.

Witnesses, most of them soldiers, have fingered Hasan as a ruthless shooter who gunned down troops and civilians.

He stands charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 charges of attempted premeditated murder.

But Hasan’s lead lawyer, retired Army Colonel John Galligan, has sought to dismiss the case, saying he has not been given three pieces of critical evidence.

One of them was an intelligence review on the shooting ordered by President Barack Obama. Another was a report that looked into the actions of officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Centre in Washington, where Hasan worked before moving to Fort Hood.

A mental health evaluation also had yet to be conducted.

The army has come under fire for missing numerous warning signs about Hasan, who had been in email communication with Anwar al-Awlaqi, a radical US-Yemeni cleric now being hunted in Yemen as an al-Qaeda associate.

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