FORT HOOD, Texas — The prosecutors pursuing the death penalty against the Army psychiatrist accused in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage will soon begin trying to answer a difficult but key question: Why did Maj. Nidal Hasan attack his fellow soldiers in the worst mass shooting ever on a U.S. military base?
Both sides offered a few hints so far. Although he’s been mostly silent in the courtroom, Hasan used his brief opening statement to tell jurors he had “switched sides” in what he called America’s war with Islam; he later leaked documents to the media showing he believed he could be a martyr.
Military prosecutors opened the trial by saying they would show that Hasan felt he had a “jihad duty,” referring to a Muslim term for a religious war or struggle. After calling almost 80 witnesses over two weeks, prosecutors said Friday they would begin tackling the question this week.
Hasan — who is acting as his own attorney — told jurors during a barely one-minute opening statement that evidence “will clearly show that I am the shooter,” but he said it wouldn’t tell the whole story.
Since then, his defense has been nearly non-existent. He questioned only two of prosecutors’ witnesses and didn’t object to hundreds of pieces of evidence.
Among those likely to pay especially close attention are victims pressing the federal government to formally acknowledge the Fort Hood shootings as an act of terror, not workplace violence, and provide more benefits.
“We’re very interested to see whether and to what extent the government pursues Hasan’s jihadism,” said Reed Rubinstein, an attorney for the victims. “It would be welcome if the prosecutor would make very explicit the fact that this was a jihadist attack. This was terrorism.”
Rubinstein is much less interested in what Hasan has to say.
“He’s certainly said and done enough, thank you,” he said.