US Army to seek death in Fort Hood case

"They've done everything except tell me to my face that they plan to seek the death penalty," defense attorney says.

nadal hasan 311 (photo credit: AP)
nadal hasan 311
(photo credit: AP)
FORT WORTH, Texas — Military prosecutors sent a notice Wednesday indicating they planned to seek the death penalty against the army psychiatrist charged in the deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood, a defense attorney said.
Maj. Nadal Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the Nov. 5 shooting. Premeditated murder carries the death penalty. But if military jurors convict Hasan, they can only sentence him to death if they determine there is an aggravating factor in the case, according to military law.
Defense attorney John Galligan said the notice he received from prosecutors outlines as an aggravating factor that more than one person was killed in the same incident.
"They've done everything except tell me to my face that they plan to seek the death penalty," Galligan told The Associated Press from his office near Fort Hood, about 210 kilometers southwest of Fort Worth.
Military prosecutors have not publicly said what punishment they plan to seek, and Fort Hood officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday.
Richard Stevens, an attorney who defends military cases and is not involved in Hasan's case, said crimes that were ineligible for the death penalty did not require jurors to consider aggravating factors.
"The only reason to send a notice of aggravating factors is if you're trying to seek the death penalty," Stevens said.
Military law allows for about a dozen possible aggravating factors, but prosecutors listed only one in the notice to Hasan's attorney.
Stevens said the notice indicates prosecutors plan to present evidence about aggravating factors at Hasan's Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a grand jury proceeding. The hearing, after which a military judge will determine whether there is enough evidence to go to trial, could be held as early as July 1.
The commanding general over Hasan's unit ultimately will determine if prosecutors can seek the death penalty, Stevens said.
Hasan was moved earlier this month to Bell County Jail from a San Antonio military hospital, where he had been since shortly after the rampage that also left him paralyzed. The jail houses military defendants from nearby Fort Hood, which does not have holding facilities.
Bell County Sheriff Dan Smith has said Hasan will be under 24-hour watch and isolated from other inmates in a cell in the infirmary.