FORT HOOD, Texas – For the first time in almost four years, relatives of the 13 people killed in the shooting rampage on post will get to confront the convicted mass murderer, Maj. Nidal Hasan, in what some expect to be an emotional day of testimony.
U.S. Army prosecutors plan to call as many as 19 family members during the sentencing phase of Hasan’s court martial that began Monday morning.
Last Friday, a panel of 13 Army officers found Hasan guilty by unanimous vote on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the 2009 massacre at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center.
Relatives of the victims plan to testify. Among them is Jolene Cahill, whose husband Michael was the only civilian Hasan murdered. Witnesses testified that Cahill, a retired chief warrant officer who was working as a physician’s assistant, tried unsuccessfully to stop the shooting by charging Hasan with a chair as he changed magazines.
Over the last two years, Mrs. Cahill has attended most of Hasan’s legal hearings.
Prosecutors are also expected to call relatives of Pfc. Francheska Velez to testify. Multiple witnesses said Velez, who was pregnant, pleaded with Hasan not to kill her saying "My baby; My baby,” before he pulled the trigger.
It’s uncertain whether Hasan will make a presentation during sentencing.
Regardless, he will get an automatic appeal to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.
“If Hasan gets the death penalty, appeal is automatic to both the Army Court of Criminal Appeals and—if the Army appellate court upholds the death sentence—to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces,” said Richard Rosen, a law professor at Texas Tech. "Hasan cannot waive an appeal if the court-martial imposes the death penalty."
Hasan will eventually serve his sentence at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
“Depending upon his physical condition, he could also be confined at a federal prison with adequate medical facilities, such as the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo.," Rosen added.
It's been more than a half century since the Army held an execution. Pt. John Bennett was hanged in 1961 for the rape and murder of an Austrian girl.