Testimony to Resume at Fort Hood Suspect's Hearing
"He's here, sir."
"That man is right there, sir."
Twenty-nine witnesses testified last week, and more soldiers are expected on the stand Monday at the start of the second week of a military hearing to determine whether Maj. Nidal Hasan will stand trial. Hasan, 40, an American-born Muslim, is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the Nov. 5 shootings at the Texas Army post.
Some time after the Article 32 hearing ends, the investigating officer will make recommendations on taking the case to trial and whether the military should seek the death penalty. The final decision will be made by Col. Morgan Lamb, a Fort Hood brigade commander appointed to oversee judicial matters in Hasan's case.
It's unusual to have so many witnesses at such a hearing, but "it's a big case and (the investigating officer) is trying to be thorough," said Richard Stevens, an attorney who defends military cases but is not involved in the Hasan case.
That officer, Col. James L. Pohl, said earlier this year that he wanted to hear from everyone who was wounded in the worst attack on an American military base. The proceeding is unique to the military in that Pohl, along with prosecutors and defense attorneys, can call witnesses.
It's unclear which ones he did call. Ten who testified last week were not wounded. They described the gunman or testified about seeing one or more people getting killed.
Along with more soldiers, upcoming witnesses are expected to include the two Fort Hood police officers credited with taking the gunman down. Hasan, who was paralyzed from the chest down after being shot, remains jailed.
Prosecutors essentially need to show probable cause for going to trial, and they've submitted as evidence a recording of a terrified woman's 911 call as she hid under a desk. Sounds of gunshots and a dying soldier's moans could be heard in the background.
Other evidence includes diagrams showing where the gunman and various soldiers were during the shootings. Prosecutors have been asking witnesses how crowded the building was and how rapidly and where the gunman fired.
Soldiers, including some testifying by video link and telephone, have given similar accounts of how the massacre began:
After lunch, a balding man in an Army combat uniform stood by a front counter, shouted "Allahu Akbar!" - "God is great!" in Arabic - and started shooting unarmed soldiers in a building where they went for routine medical tests before deploying. When the volley of gunfire sprayed across a crowded waiting area, startled soldiers initially thought it was a training exercise.
Two soldiers who worked in the building said they recognized the gunman as Hasan because they had talked to him that morning when he got vaccinations and other tests in preparation for his upcoming deployment. The building was more crowded in the afternoon, when soldiers returned for their test results, they said. Many were from two units that had just arrived at Fort Hood and were scheduled to leave soon for Afghanistan and Iraq.
"It sounds like prosecutors want to show that he came back when it was more crowded so he could have more victims," Stevens said. "They're also trying to show that the defendant had an intent to kill and was of his right mind, rather than just randomly shooting."
Soldiers testified the gunman kept firing - "as fast as someone can pull a trigger," said Spc. James Armstrong - while walking through the building, pausing only to reload. The gunman shot "everything that moved," said Spc. Megan Martin, testifying by video link from Afghanistan.
Several witnesses said the gunman made eye contact with them just before they were hit. Many were shot more than once - some as they tried to pull buddies to safety, others as they hid under tables or chairs. One wounded soldier ran outside, but the gunman followed him and shot him again, soldiers testified.
Hasan's attorneys have kept cross-examinations brief, mostly asking soldiers about their injuries and interviews with investigators afterward. They asked a few soldiers if the gunshots seemed random, and some said yes.
Under cross-examination, Pfc. Lance Aviles said he recorded two videos on his cell phone during the shootings but deleted them later that day upon orders from an officer.
Stevens said such hearings "are not easy for the defense."
"There is going to be a trial. That's a foregone conclusion," he said. "They're trying to limit what they ask so they don't give away their (trial) strategy."
Lead defense attorney John Galligan said he has not decided what, if any, evidence to present at the hearing, which is expected to last at least another week.