The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

August 3, 2013

Fort Hood and the rarity of military executions

(Continued)

Hasan is charged with 13 specifications of premeditated murder and 32 specifications of attempted premeditated murder. Thirteen officers from around the country who hold Hasan's rank or higher will serve on the jury for a trial that will likely last one month and probably longer. They must be unanimous to convict Hasan of murder and sentence him to death. Three-quarters of the panel must vote for an attempted murder conviction.

The jury will likely hear from victims and relatives of the dead. A handful of victims still carry bullet fragments in their body. Others have nightmares.

"It never goes away — being upset that it's taken so long for this trial to come," said Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford, who was shot in the head, stomach and upper body. "So now's the day of reckoning, which is positive — very positive."

The trial's start has been delayed over and over, often due to requests from Hasan. Any of the hundreds of decisions large or small could be fair game on appeal. The entire record will be scrutinized by military appeals courts that have overturned most of the death sentences they've considered.

"A good prosecutor, in military parlance, would be foolish to fight only the close battle," Corn said. "He's got to fight the close battle and the future battle. And the future battle is the appellate record."

Hasan has twice dismissed his lawyers and now plans to represent himself at trial. He's suggested he wants to argue the killings were in "defense of others" — namely, members of the Taliban fighting Americans in Afghanistan. The trial judge, Col. Tara Osborn, has so far denied that strategy.

Hasan has grown a beard while in custody that he says expresses his Muslim faith, but violates military rules on decorum. After a military judge ordered him forcibly shaved, an appeals court stayed that order and took another judge off the case.

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