Fort Hood Shooter Nidal Hasan Sentenced to Death

Convicted Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan was sentenced to death Wednesday by a military court. His case marks the first time the U.S. military will have executed a service member since 1961.

The 13-member jury of U.S. Army officers who convicted Hasan last week had two options: either agree unanimously Hasan should die or automatically sentence the 42-year-old army psychiatrist to life in prison with no chance of parole. Despite receiving the death penalty, months or even years could pass before Hasan is executed, due to the military justice system requiring a lengthy appeals process.

Hasan, who acted as his own defense lawyer, is an American-born Muslim who admitted to killing 13 people and wounding 31 in his opening statement, saying he switched sides to protect Islamic insurgents abroad from what he considered to be a U.S. war on Islam.

Hasan called no witnesses during his trial, also choosing not to present any documentary evidence or explanation for why he should not die for his crimes, leading to media speculation he was seeking martyrdom. Judge Colonel Tara Osborn Osborn reluctantly allowed Hasan's wishes, telling the defendant, "You're the captain of your own ship."

However, lead prosecutor Colonel Mike Mulligan assured jurors that Hasan would "never be a martyr," saying "He is a criminal. He is a cold-blooded murderer. This is not his gift to God. This is his debt to society. This is the cost of his murderous rampage."

The last of the 19 victims and family members of those wounded or killed gave testimony Tuesday, detailing physical and emotional injuries from the rampage four years ago, and telling of lost loved ones.

"The shooting and his killing is not going to destroy my family," said Joleen Cahill, widow of Michael Cahill, the only civilian to die in the massacre. "He is not going to win," she said firmly, as Hasan sat just feet away.

Family members of soldiers killed in the attack said they were satisfied with today's death sentence.

Joleen Cahill, wife of retired soldier and civilian medical worker Michael Cahill, said the sentence brought some relief. “Today a weight has been lifted off my shoulder,” she said. “The panel gave him justice and I agree with that justice."

“The best thing for that man is to be forgotten,” said Kerry Cahill, Michael Cahill’s daughter.

“We have finally come to the end of one long emotional journey,” said Jerri Krueger, mother of slain soldier Sgt. Amy Krueger in a statement. “We have some relief knowing Hasan was found guilty without a doubt and he will pay for what he did.”

In November 2009, Hasan opened fire at an area where soldiers were being evaluated before being deployed in either Iraq or Afghanistan. The federal government has sought the death penalty for Hasan for nearly four years, believing any sentence short of lethal injection would deny justice to survivors of the rampage and families of the dead.