Cross posted from Frederick Leatherman Law Blog
Major Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist and devout Muslim, was convicted last week by a military jury of killing 13 people during a shooting rampage at Fort Hood. The sentencing phase of his trial begins today. The jury that found him guilty has two options: death or life without parole. Since he is representing himself and only cross examined three of the 90 witnesses who testified against him, there is little doubt that he is passively seeking a death sentence. The only question is whether the jury will oblige and grant his wish.
Pursuant to Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975), a defendant has a Sixth Amendment right to represent himself, if he is competent and unequivocally demands to do so. Judges typically appoint stand-by counsel to be present and available to take over, if a defendant changes his mind and that was done in this case. However, Major Hasan has shown no inclination to change his mind.
He wanted to present a defense that he acted in defense of unnamed insurgents who would be killed by U.S. soldiers, but the trial judge, Colonel Tara Osborn, would not permit him to do so. As you all know from Trayvon’s case, a person cannot lawfully kill another person in self-defense or defense of another unless he reasonably believes that he or the person he is defending is in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm. Major Hasan’s belief that some unidentified insurgents were in danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm at some unknown time in the future as a result of actions taken by some unidentified soldier, even if true, cannot satisfy the imminent requirement. Therefore, the judge’s ruling was proper, as a matter of secular law.
Major Hasan did not care about secular law when he opened fire on the soldiers he killed and injured.
Major Hasan intended to die. No one killed him that day, but they will kill him some day and this trial is just a slow motion way to get there as he passively submits to the process and patiently awaits the inevitable execution.
As far as Major Hasan is concerned, he is already dead.
Public domain photo from Wikimedia Commons.