FORT HOOD, Texas (Reuters) - Military prosecutors rested their case on Tuesday in the capital murder court-martial of an Army psychiatrist accused of opening fire on unarmed soldiers at Fort Hood in 2009, killing 13 and wounding more than 30.
Major Nidal Hasan, an American-born Muslim, has admitted in court to gunning down soldiers at a medical complex at the sprawling military base in central Texas, saying he switched sides in what he considered a U.S. war against Islam.
The government rested its case after calling 89 witnesses in two weeks of testimony, with many describing in horrific detail the bloodbath in and around a medical building at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009.
Hasan, 42, who is acting as his own attorney, signaled he may not mount any defense. He passed up an opportunity on Tuesday to move for an immediate not guilty verdict, which is within a defendant’s rights after the prosecution has rested.
Hasan faces 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of premeditated attempted murder. He could face the death penalty if all 13 officers on the jury find him guilty.
He told mental health evaluators that he wanted to become a martyr as a result of his attack, court documents show. Lawyers assisting him say he is seeking the death penalty, but he has denied that claim.
Shot by police during the incident, he is paralyzed from the waist down and attends court in a wheelchair. He has requested frequent breaks in the testimony for rest and for prayer.
The trial is in recess until Wednesday, when all eyes will be on Hasan’s efforts, if any, to counter two weeks of emotional and often graphic testimony about the bloody attack.
He could call witnesses, though he has indicated he has no plans to do that. Or he could call himself and testify in his own defense in a one-man question-and-answer format.
Experts have speculated he might be waiting until the sentencing phase, if he is found guilty of the charges, to present his side of the story.
Military judge Colonel Tara Osburn told Hasan he could meet on Tuesday night with a religious conversion expert he had once indicated he may want to call to the stand and give his final decision about witnesses on Wednesday.
Among the last to testify for the prosecution was Army psychiatrist Tonya Kozminski, who told the court Hasan warned her while they were on a weekend shift at the Darnell Medical Center that something bad would happen if they tried to send him to war.
“I don’t remember the first line exactly word for word, whether it was ‘If they send me to Iraq’ or ‘Afghanistan,’ or ‘If they deploy me,’ one of those type sentences,” she said. “Something of that nature was the first line, but the second line, the last thing he said to me, was, ‘They will pay.'”
Additional reporting by Jana Pruet; Editing by Dina Kyriakidou, Gunna Dickson and Cynthia Osterman