Given a chance to sway the jury that will decide whether he lives or dies, Maj. Nidal Hasan declined Tuesday to give a statement or present reams of evidence compiled by several defense experts over the past three years.
Hasan can give a closing argument Wednesday, but because he offered no evidence during the sentencing phase of his trial, he will be limited in what he can say if he chooses to speak. Hasan was convicted on Friday of 45 counts of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder. He could get the death penalty.
The military jury is expected to begin deliberations Wednesday.
Hasan’s standby defense attorneys on Tuesday unsuccessfully petitioned military judge Tara Osborn to let them present evidence that they said could potentially save Hasan from a death sentence. Mitigation expert Tim Semmerling, who sat in the courtroom gallery ready to testify, has been paid more than $250,000 to research Hasan’s history and compile exculpatory evidence.
The petition came after the jury had been excused Tuesday. Hasan objected to the attorneys’ motion — at one point calling the standby attorneys “overzealous.”
Osborn ruled that, ultimately, Hasan is “the captain of his own ship.”
Hasan decided to represent himself shortly before the court-martial began, forcing his military appointed defense attorneys into advisory positions. Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, Hasan’s former lead counsel, asked Osborn Tuesday to let them or another attorney present so-called mitigation evidence to the jury.
“If no one is making the case for life, there is only death,” Poppe said. “And that is something we cannot abide by.”
Geoffrey Corn, a military law expert at South Texas College of Law, said that in denying the attorneys’ motion, Osborn “is on rock solid constitutional grounds.”
Poppe and two other military appointed attorneys have maintained since the beginning of the court-martial that Hasan is seeking the death penalty and have asked to be either released from the case or reinstalled as lead defense attorneys. Poppe has said that helping Hasan in any way to achieve a death sentence is morally repugnant.
Earlier Tuesday, prosecutors presented their final witnesses, who told jurors about the collateral damage of the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting attack, describing divorces, alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder and thoughts of suicide.
Philip Warman, the husband of Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, 55, said his wife’s death left him devastated.
“It was like I had something ripped out of me,” said Warman, an attorney. “I started drinking. I pretty much drank until the following June.”
An active skeet shooter, he had the guns removed from his home. “I don’t tend to be suicidal, but I didn’t trust myself,” he said. “I was doing it with slow weapons, with alcohol.”
He eventually checked into rehab and has been sober ever since. He told jurors that he takes the recovery coins he receives from Alcoholics Anonymous to his wife’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery, where she is buried next to fellow victim Maj. Eduardo Caraveo.
“I would push them into the ground at my wife’s grave,” he said.
Joleen Cahill of Cameron took the stand to talk about her husband, Michael Cahill, a retired warrant officer who was the only civilian killed in the attack. Cahill said her family has kept her husband’s cellphone connected “so his children could call and hear his voice and just talk.”
She said she is determined not to let the shooting destroy her life and the lives of her three children. She is fighting, she said, to show that Hasan “is not going to win and that I am in control.”