Share This Page

Despite emotional testimony from Fort Hood survivors, Hasan mum

| Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, 8:03 p.m.

FORT HOOD, Texas — The Army psychiatrist who fatally shot 13 people at Fort Hood decided not to present any evidence during his trial's penalty phase on Tuesday even though jurors are deciding whether to sentence him to death.

Maj. Nidal Hasan rested his case without calling witnesses or testifying to counter the emotional testimony from victims' relatives, who talked of eerily quiet homes, lost futures, alcoholism and the unmatched fear of hearing a knock on their front door.

Prosecutors hope the testimony helps convince jurors to hand down a rare military death sentence against Hasan, who was convicted last week for the 2009 attack that wounded more than 30 people at the Texas military base.

The judge dismissed jurors after Hasan declined to put up a defense. After the jury left the courtroom, she asked Hasan more than two dozen questions in rapid fire, affirming that he knew what he was doing. His answers were succinct and just as rapid.

“It is my personal decision,” he said. “It is free and voluntary.”

The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, then read aloud several court opinions to back up her decision not to introduce evidence in Hasan's favor on her own.

“In other words, Maj. Hasan, you are the captain of your own ship,” Osborn said.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday, but whether jurors will hear from Hasan remains unclear. He has been acting as his own attorney but has put up nearly no defense since his trial began three weeks ago.

The trial's penalty phase, however, is Hasan's last chance to tell jurors what he's spent the last four years telling the military, judges and journalists: that he believes the killing of unarmed American soldiers preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan was necessary to protect Muslim insurgents. He was barred ahead of trial of making such a defense.

Hasan rested his case shortly after more than a dozen widows, mothers, fathers, children and other relatives of those killed, along with soldiers wounded during the shooting rampage, testified about their lives since Nov. 5, 2009.

Sheryll Pearson sobbed when shown a photo of her son, Pfc. Michael Pearson, hugging her during his graduation.

“We always wanted to see who he was going to become. Now that was taken away from us,” she said.

Joleen Cahill told jurors that she misses hearing her husband's footsteps in their Texas home, which she said now feels empty. Witnesses have said her husband, Michael Cahill, was armed only with a chair when he tried to charge Hasan as Hasan opened fire on unarmed soldiers inside a crowded medical building at Fort Hood.

The 62-year-old physician's assistant was the only civilian killed in the attack.

Philip Warman said the slaying of his wife, Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, “was like I had something ripped out of me.”

“I pretty much drank until the following June,” he said.

He said he checked into a substance abuse center for 28 days, and he had friends remove his weapons from his home because he didn't trust himself.

Warman now takes the coins distributed during his Alcoholic Anonymous meetings to Arlington National Cemetery, where his wife is buried next to another Fort Hood victim, Maj. Eduardo Caraveo.

“I push them into the ground at my wife's grave,” he said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.