A military judge is weighing whether prosecutors will be allowed to present evidence of Maj. Nidal Hasan’s growing radicalization and religious motives in the Nov. 5, 2009, shootings.
Prosecutors said Friday they are seeking to present about 10 witnesses next week, when Hasan’s death penalty court-martial resumes, who would testify to alarming statements the Army psychiatrist made while at Walter Reed Army Medical Center last decade.
Prosecutors also want to argue that Hasan was influenced by Sgt. Hasan Akbar, a Muslim soldier sentenced to death for a 2003 grenade and shooting attack that killed two of his fellow soldiers in Kuwait. Attorney Col. Steve Hendricks called Hasan’s shooting a copycat attack.
Military judge Col. Tara Osborn must decide whether the evidence would unfairly prejudice jurors against Hasan. Military rules don’t allow evidence that could cause jurors to base their verdict on emotion. Osborn said she would inform prosecutors of her decision Saturday.
If she prohibits the evidence, prosecutors could still present it during the sentencing phase, when rules are more relaxed.
Prosecutors want to present evidence that Hasan made inquiries about obtaining conscientious objector status based on his religion in 2006 or 2007 and that soon afterward he made a presentation to colleagues warning of “adverse events” if Muslims were forced to deploy to war against their will.
Also on Friday, jurors heard dramatic testimony from former Fort Hood police officer Kimberly Munley, who described exchanging fire with Hasan.
Munley was the first officer on the scene and prosecutors played dashcam video of her speeding toward Fort Hood’s soldier readiness processing center. The video showed her sprinting toward the center after being directed by soldiers crouching behind cars in the center’s parking lot. A few moments later, a furious exchange of gunfire erupted on the video.
Munley testified that outside the building, Hasan sprinted at her while firing his semiautomatic pistol.
“At eight feet, we began to blindly exchange fire,” Munley said. She was hit three times, in the hand, knee and thigh.
After she was shot, she said her gun jammed, leaving her helpless. She said Hasan loomed over her and kicked her gun away, but that his gun then malfunctioned as well. She said Hasan stepped back to try to fix his gun when Officer Mark Todd fired the shots that paralyzed him.
Hasan, who is acting as his own attorney, declined to ask her any questions, and nearly four years after the shooting Munley exited the courtroom with a slight limp.
Later, a Fort Hood evidence technician testified she found the shell casing that had jammed inside Munley’s gun.
FBI Special Agent Donna Cowling said agents found 76 shell casings outside the readiness center; 63 from Hasan’s gun and 13 from the two officers.
Cowling also described Hasan’s spare apartment, which contained little more than a card table, prayer rug and paper shredder. Cowling said she also found an empty box for a laser sight, gun cleaning solution and an owners manual for the FN 5-7 handgun he used in the rampage.
Outside the presence of the jury, Osborn denied a motion to allow victims who have testified to give interviews to the media before the trial ends. The attorney representing dozens of victims and family members who are suing the federal government over the shooting had asked Osborn to change her directives to witnesses to not discuss their testimony.
Also Friday, Hasan said his mitigation specialist, who was hired in 2010 to compile exculpatory evidence that would keep him off of death row, would not testify during the sentencing phase. Hasan removed Dr. Tim Jon Semmerling earlier this month from his witness list.