Fort Hood massacre gunman Nidal Malik Hasan will cross-examine survivors of attack

Major who shot dead 13 people at US Army base in Texas will represent himself at court martial

US Editor

Almost four years after he walked into a pre-deployment processing centre inside Fort Hood in Texas and opened fire killing 13 people and injuring dozens more, former Medical Corps officer Nidal Malik Hasan will finally face justice today on the first day of a military court martial that is likely to last months.

While the run-up to it has been tortuous, marked by repeated delays and controversies, the trial itself is likely to generate instant high drama not least because Major Hasan, who faces a possible death sentence in the case, will be representing himself.  It is likely, therefore, that he will be given the chance to cross-examine any witnesses called by the prosecution, including many of those whom he shot but who survived.

The first of these exchanges, as poignant as they will be painful, may come as early today if, as expected, the prosecution opens by calling Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford to describe his own experience coming face to face with the accused, being shot in the face by him and saving himself first by playing dead and then by running through an exit but not before being shot several more times in the back.

Described in a US Senate report as the “worst terrorist attack on US soil since September 11, 2001”, the rampage also stands as the deadliest mass shooting ever seen on a US military facility.  It began when Maj. Hasan strode into the processing centre, where soldiers were receiving jabs ahead of a deployment to Afghanistan, allegedly shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’, God is Great, twice and then began shooting. 

Facing 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder, Maj. Hassan is in a wheelchair because of injuries suffered when military police took him down. He has not denied being the shooter. The legal skirmishes that delayed the trail ranged from his refusal to shave his beard, to his attempts – both thwarted by the court – to enter a plea deal to avoid facing a possible death penalty and to present a defence stating that he acted to defend Taliban fighters in Afghanistan from US aggression.

Sgt Lunsford, who was shot seven times and remains blind in one eye, spoke out this week about being forced now to face off with Maj. Hasan in court. “I will be cross-examined by the man who shot me,” he told the New York Times. “You can imagine all the emotions that are going to be coming up.”  He spoke also of his need to remain composed. “It was seven times this man tried to kill me.  I took that personally,” he said in another interview.  “The toughest part is trying to control my anger.”

He and some of the other survivors and relatives of those who died have filed a lawsuit against the US government claiming that the authorities had been aware before the attack that Maj. Hasan had radical Islam views and supported Jihad against the United States and did nothing to confront or discipline him. Among indicators were email conversations he had with Anwar Awlaki, the US-born al-Qa’ida operative in Yemen who was killed in a US drone attack last year.

As the trial begins, the stakes are high for military prosecutors whose task is not just to attain a conviction and a death sentence but to do so without giving Maj. Hasan material with which to appeal. Assuming a conviction is achieved a process of appeals is nonetheless inevitable and will be likely to take years. In that circumstance, it is unlikely that Maj. Hasan would face an executioner in the even in medium-term future.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’