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August 28, 2013

Fort Hood mass murderer, Nidal Hasan, gets death penalty ... everybody happy?

This CBS News piece reports on the not-very-surprising outcome of a high-profile capital military sentencing proceeding today: "Thirteen senior Army officers have sentenced Maj. Nidal Hasan to death for carrying out the horrific 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood Army base."   Here is more about today's proceedings and what comes next:

The panel's recommendation will now go to a convening authority, the general responsible for assembling the capital court-martial, for review and approval. The convening authority can approve or reduce the sentence.

On Friday, Hasan was unanimously convicted on 13 charges of premeditated murder and convicted of 32 charges of attempted premeditated murder. His conviction carries a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison and the panel was authorized to consider the death penalty.

During sentencing the government presented 20 witnesses over two days, including soldiers who were injured as well as parents, spouses, and children of those who were murdered by Hasan. Each described how the shooting has impacted their lives while Hasan, who was paralyzed in the shooting and is now confined to a wheelchair, sat about 20 feet away.

On Wednesday, in an emotional 50-minute closing statement, the government revisited the stories of each witness and then told panel, "The acts of 5 November were religiously motivated, but you should not punish him for his religion. You should punish him for his hate."

The government argued against the idea that a death sentence would result in martyrdom for Hasan. "He will never be a martyr because he has nothing to give. Do not be misled. Do not be fooled. He is not giving his life. We are taking his life. This is not his gift to God; this is his debt to society. This is not a charitable act. He is not now and never will be a martyr. He is a cold-blooded murderer," argued prosecutor Col. Michael Mulligan.

As a convicted defendant, Maj. Hasan had the right to give an unsworn statement before the court or to testify under oath. When it was his turn to present evidence at sentencing, he simply said, "the defense rests." He also declined to present a closing argument on Wednesday....

In courts martial, appellate review is mandatory and cannot be waived or withdrawn when the sentence includes death. Under military law, any sentence calling for more than one year of incarceration gets an automatic review by the Army Court of Military Review, which then goes to the Armed Forces Court of Appeals....

It has been more than 50 years since the U.S. military executed a U.S. service member. Army Pfc. John A. Bennett was the last service member to be put to death, on April 13, 1961 after being convicted of the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old girl.

In 1983, the Armed Forces Court of Appeals ruled that military capital punishment was unconstitutional, but it was reinstated in 1984 when President Reagan signed an executive order adopting new rules for capital courts martial. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there have been 16 military death penalty convictions since 1984, but 11 of those sentences have been overturned. The remaining five service members remain on death row....

On Tuesday his stand-by defense counsel submitted a motion to present mitigating evidence that could help Hasan in sentencing.  Hasan objected and Judge Osborn denied the motion, stating a pro-se defendant in the military justice system "is the captain of his own ship."

Col. Joseph Cerreto, a retired former Judge Advocate General, said he cannot imagine that appellate counsel will not be appointed to prosecute the appeal. "Whether Hasan wants it or not, no court is going to order the death penalty or life incarceration without parole without appellate counsel having briefed and argued the case," he said.

Even if Hasan does not cooperate, appointed lawyers can note his opposition in their briefs to the court and then go ahead and raise any legal issues they deem appropriate.

As this story makes clear, the prosecutors and seemingly many connected to the victims of Hasan's crimes were hoping to get a death sentence in the case.  But reports have also indicated that Hasan himself wanted to be sentenced to death.  Thus the question in the title of this post: is anyone upset that Hasan has been sentenced to death?

I know, of course, that death penalty abolitionists do not want to see any jurisdiction actual use the death penalty, as so I suspect there may be a few folks how are not truly happy with this outcome. Still, given than Hasan himself apparently wants to be sentenced to death and further that it seems very unlikely he will be executed anytime soon (if at all), I wonder if even abolitionist might in this kind of case at least by not all too displeased by this sentence of death.

August 28, 2013 at 05:20 PM | Permalink


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The principal reason to execute him is not either Hasan's hate, as the prosecution says, or that he (apparently) wants it. His "feelings" about it, whatever they are, don't matter.

The principal reason to execute him is that the 13 premeditated murders, of which no sane person doubts he's guilty, has earned it.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 28, 2013 6:07:17 PM

"is the captain of his own ship"

And, he wants to go down with it.

But, hey, why shouldn't I be happy he is getting his wish? It would be petty of me not to, right? These posts have a sort of sneering feel to them at times. "You don't oppose it now, right?!!!!"

If he isn't going to be executed, what will we have then? A whole lot of appeals and costs etc. to deal with something that won't happen? Not QUITE sure if that makes the death sentence something to be "happy" about as such.

These cases are the "hard cases" for opposing the death penalty where it's easy to defend it, but no system only will result in easy cases, and the system of capital punishment will spit out a lot of harder cases too. And, I fear people like this as martyrs. And, like torture and certain other things, some simply don't think capital punishment should be something that the state does. But, then, we are told it very well might not happen at all. Promise?

The mother of one of the victims was on today. I'll be happy if she and others will live their lives as best as they can.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 28, 2013 6:20:39 PM


I hadn't read the other thread where I commented on this until today where you asked, "am I an abolitionist" since I didn't think he should get it. So I'll answer here. No I'm not.

If you read my post, my reasons for not giving it were hardly moral reasons or saying this didn't rise to the level of it being "earned". In fact my reasoning is that I felt he deserved the worst punishment for what he did, BUT he feels, and given his reasons for committing these crimes it is pretty clear to me he believes, that LWOP is worse. He wants to be a martyr. I think it is a harsher punishment to deny that to him.

You say his feelings don't matter. I don't agree. His desire to die, for his cause, for martyrdom, is exactly the reason we shouldn't. The fact that others who would do this feel the same way is why this has no deterrent effect.

LWOP is hardly a cake walk. And I think a reasonable case can be made that it is worse than DP. Many have committed suicide because of that. Death is better than rotting in a cell for the rest of your life. Now whether you agree is not the point (I couldn't answer myself without being in a cell with no chance of freedom). I'm not arguing either is right or wrong. Both positions have considerable merit. And given that I think his desire to die, makes LWOP the worst punishment in this particular circumstance.

I wouldn't be so quick to apply this whenever someone claims to prefer death. It is too easy to say that. But given his confessed motives, I think it pretty solid to assume he speaks the truth in his desire.

As for who I'd give it to (another question you asked me in the other thread), Castro and Arias are two high profile cases that come to mind recently. Again, my objection to the DP here is not one of morality, or that it isn't deserved. It is one in which I think LWOP is actually worse (and he deserves the worst) so better gives full retributive and deterrent effects. I fully acknowledge I am in the vast minority here, if not alone. That almost all who support DP in general do so here, and all who oppose DP in general obviously follow their belief. I simply think that motive here makes it unique to where LWOP is worse than the DP and that is why I would give that.

Posted by: Matt | Aug 28, 2013 6:27:14 PM

Death is not a punishment. It is an expulsion. It is time to go for this defendant.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 28, 2013 7:01:17 PM

Well i'm like Bill and the others. he's amply proven he diserves it. But Matt also makes a very good point. If he want's it that bad. It should be the last thing he gets!

IF and i say if we had a death penalty system that was QUICK and efficient. id' say go for it and let the chips fall where they may with his buddies. Might bring the little shits out of the woodwork where we could get a shot at them.

As it is. It's neither quick nor efficient. So screw it. Piss him off and make his ass live the next 200 years. Suffering every day!

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 28, 2013 9:03:36 PM

While it was never brought out, ironically if he were tried as a terrorist at Guantanamo, he most likely would not have received death.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Aug 28, 2013 9:24:57 PM

This guy is one of the most deserving candidates for the death penalty in recent history.

Posted by: Thinkaboutit | Aug 28, 2013 10:12:03 PM

If we're going to have a death penalty, this is certainly the type of case where it is most deserved. But I can't help but think about Sgt. Robert Bales, who intentionally slaughtered unarmed men, women and children, but who was recently sentenced to life in prison. I doubt that the details behind the outcomes of these two cases--one expressed remorse and negotiated a plea deal while the other was defiant and unrepentant--is going to be appreciated by a world that will focus on the fact that in one case a Christian murdered Afghani Muslims and in the other, a Muslim murdered Americans who were mostly, if not entirely, Christians.

Posted by: C.E. | Aug 28, 2013 10:39:05 PM

C.E. --

That there was undeserved (and perhaps scandalous) leniency in one case is not a reason that supports undeserved leniency in the next. Indeed, it's a reason for the opposite.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 28, 2013 11:50:52 PM

Thinkaboutit --

Nailed it.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 28, 2013 11:52:10 PM

The politically correct, pro-Islamist officers that protected him, especially the filthy lawyers that intimidated his superior officers from stopping him should face tort liability for wrongful death by the estates of the victims. The same mentality has infected our entire military, now filled with feminized half men. Lawyers have embedded themselves like Commissars and have cancelled tactical orders down to the squad level. They have reversed the orders to attack of 4 star generals. Warriors in the special forces could not shoot a shepherd who spotted them, and the entire squad was wiped out, with a lone survivor. He cited the fear of prosecution as the cause they did not shoot him, and nearly all paid the ultimate price. They were afraid of the feminist man hating lawyer Commissar.

We need the names of the lawyer traitors.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 29, 2013 3:13:44 AM

"The principal reason to execute him is that the 13 premeditated murders, of which no sane person doubts he's guilty, has earned it." Bill Otis

On this one, Mr. Otis has a very strong argument on the merits. If not Hasan, who should qualify for and bie given the DP. Assuming he had a fair trial, I agree Mr. Hasan easily earned the DP. Extremely aggravating circunsataces and the aggrivators could have easily been found to substantially outweigh the mitigators.

Posted by: Steve Prof | Aug 29, 2013 8:13:14 AM

He killed 13 and wounded, was it 30 plus others...He offered no defense, other than America must go down as hes defending Muslins against America...Its never ending..

Take him down...NOW...This is definitely what the DP is for...

Posted by: MidWest Guy | Aug 29, 2013 11:16:44 AM

Matt provides an answer, within the "death penalty is sometimes valid" universe why executing him can be refuted. CE shows that the system as a whole also can be a problem, even if you think in a vacuum some individual sentence is valid. Eric Knight also suggests how entrusting terrorists to civil courts can make sense. Those who say he is tailored made for the death penalty are reasonable too. Good thread.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 29, 2013 11:40:06 AM

He likely has a mental illness. There is a saying from med school. Those who are crazy and extroverted go into Emergency Medicine. Those who are crazy and introverted go into Psychiatry. He showed no emotion, during the killing, after the killing, during a trial for his life, after a death sentence is handed down. He had a lifelong history of social isolation, and preferred that, rather than wanting to have friends or a girl friend and being too shy. He has the deficit state of schizophrenia, if not positive symptoms such as delusions. He is not stupid in failing to put on any defense whatsoever, despite access to topnotch legal advice, from an experienced military judge. Perhaps, the lawyer told him to use that tactic to preserve massive numbers of reversible errors and appellate points, given the inevitability of the verdict and of the penalty. That tactic would make the judge one slick mf'er. Now there will be no pro se appellate motions. There will be endless appeals by abolitionist military and civilian death experts experts for many years, and many $millions, despite the heinousness of the crime.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 29, 2013 4:33:41 PM

Thou Shalt Not Kill. Sixth Commandment.
No exception for Y'all can.

Posted by: Liberty1st1st | Aug 31, 2013 9:00:47 PM

Unfortunately, he didn't really "get the death penalty." That will happen if/when he is actually executed. It is a sign of the sickness of our system that even though there is no room for doubt about his guilt, we can expect years of appeals. But given the notoriety of the case and the fact that he appears to want the DP, there is hope that this particular execution will actually happen some day.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Sep 4, 2013 1:53:27 PM

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