FORT HOOD, Texas (Reuters) - The U.S. Army psychiatrist who has admitted shooting dead 13 people in 2009 chose one station at a Fort Hood medical facility as his “personal kill zone” because he knew it would be packed with soldiers, a prosecutor said on Thursday in closing arguments of a court-martial.
Major Nidal Hasan, acting as his own defense lawyer, declined to make a closing argument after prosecutors finished making theirs, putting the case in the hands of the jury.
The jury deliberated for more than three hours on Thursday before asking to be dismissed for the day. The judge, Colonel Tara Osborn, agreed and said they would resume deliberations on Friday.
Before going home the jury asked to rehear the testimony of military police officer Mark Todd, who shot Hasan to end the shooting rampage on November 5, 2009. Hasan faces 13 charges of premeditated murder and 32 charges of attempted premeditated murder for the 31 people he wounded plus Todd, who he fired at and missed. Nearly all of the dead and wounded were fellow soldiers.
Rereading the testimony in court took a few minutes.
In their closing statement, prosecutors stressed that Hasan’s act was premeditated. Hasan could receive the death penalty if all 13 officers on the jury find him guilty of one premeditated murder and if at least two-thirds find him guilty of at least one other murder.
“The accused knew what Station 13 was about, he looked at it, saw how it would be packed with soldiers, and made it into his personal kill zone, or kill station,” said Colonel Steve Hendricks, attempting to establish the attack was premeditated.
Hasan, 42, has admitted to being the shooter, saying he switched sides in what he considered a U.S. war on Islam. He and opened fire at an area where soldiers were being evaluated before being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Hasan, an American-born Muslim, is paralyzed from the waist down and attends court in a wheelchair. He rested his case on Wednesday without calling witnesses and without testifying in his own defense.
His actions were unpredictable throughout two weeks of emotional prosecution testimony from dozens of witnesses and survivors of the worst non-combat attack ever at a U.S. military base.
Amid speculation about the emotional toll on victims who may have had to face cross-examination from him, Hasan spared them from questioning.
Prosecutors told the jury Hasan had two motives for the attack: to avoid being deployed himself, and to carry out “jihad” against U.S. soldiers.
“The accused went out that day with the intent of killing as many soldiers as he could,” Hendricks said. “There was one caveat to that: Anyone else who tried to stop him.”
After Hasan learned he would be deployed at the end of November 2009 to Afghanistan for six months, Hasan gave away his possessions, familiarized himself with the medical building, built up his arsenal and wore his regulation Army uniform even though he was on leave, Hendricks said.
Hasan deliberately carried his medical records into the building so as not to call attention to himself and packed his cargo pockets with paper towels to keep the extra rounds from jingling, Hendricks said.
He asked a civilian woman to leave the area before yelling “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest in Arabic) and opening fire, Hendricks said.
During a hearing over jury instructions on Wednesday, Hasan told judge Colonel Osborn the attack was motivated by “an illegal war” and that he had “adequate provocation” to launch the attack on soldiers readying to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The shootings came at a time of heightened tensions over the American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which strained relations between the United States and countries with predominantly Muslim populations.
Editing by Daniel Trotta and Bob Burgdorfer