Trial recommendation for Fort Hood suspect sealed
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A military officer who heard from more than two dozen soldiers wounded during last year’s deadly Fort Hood shooting rampage issued an initial recommendation Tuesday about whether an Army psychiatrist should stand trial in the attack. But the military is not releasing the report.
Col. James Pohl, who oversaw the recent Article 32 hearing for Maj. Nidal Hasan, gave his report to another high-ranking Army official. If that officer believes that Hasan should be court-martialed, a commanding general still must make the final determination.
Pohl’s recommendation is not subject to public disclosure laws, Fort Hood officials said.
Hasan’s lead defense attorney, John Galligan, said he has not seen the report but expects that the military will court-martial Hasan and seek the death penalty.
Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder for the attacks Nov. 5, 2009. Hasan was paralyzed that day after being shot by Fort Hood police. He remains jailed.
Galligan said he was notified via e-mail Tuesday afternoon that Pohl had completed his report and given it to Army prosecutors. Galligan said he expected to receive the report later in the week, but believes it will be “a rubber-stamp of the current charges.”
He also said he was not surprised to learn about the timing of Pohl’s report, which came a day after the end of the Article 32 hearing, held to determine if charges move forward in military court.
“Decisions in this case were made a long time ago,” Galligan told The Associated Press from his office near Fort Hood, a sprawling Army post about 130 miles south of Fort Worth. “The U.S. Army at the most senior levels has decided how this case will be disposed of — that this will be a death penalty case.”
Army officials have not said whether they would seek the death penalty if the case goes to trial.
After a three-week break, the Article 32 hearing resumed briefly Monday when the defense chose not to present any evidence. Soldiers wounded in the shooting were among those who testified during two weeks in October, some through live video links from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Witnesses testified that a gunman wearing an Army combat uniform shouted “Allahu Akbar!” — Arabic for “God is great!” — and opened fire in a crowded medical building where deploying soldiers get vaccines and other tests.
Soldiers and others described in chilling detail how the gunman fired rapidly, pausing only to reload, even shooting at some people as they hid under desks and fled the building.
When it was over, 12 soldiers and one civilian lay dead. Investigators found 146 shell casings on the floor, another 68 outside the building and 177 unused rounds of ammunition in the gunman’s pockets.
The gunman was identified as Hasan, an American-born Muslim who was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan the following month.
Before the rampage, Hasan bought a laser-equipped semiautomatic handgun and repeatedly visited a firing range, where he honed his skills by shooting at the heads on silhouette targets, witnesses testified during the hearing.
In making a recommendation in the case, Pohl reviewed evidence that included recordings of 911 calls from three frantic people inside the building and footage that Hasan recorded on his cell phone showing a gun store manager demonstrate how to use a gun.