JUDY WOODRUFF: And — and, as I was saying, we turn now to a second court-martial in the news today.
A military jury today unanimously convicted Army psychiatrist Major Major Nidal Hasan of premeditated murder for his shooting spree against unarmed soldiers in Fort Hood, Texas. The 42-year-old killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others in the 2009 attack. He could now face the death penalty.
Karen Brooks has been covering the court-martial for Reuters. And she joins us now.
Karen, thank you for being with us.
Was this outcome ever really in doubt, given the overwhelming evidence against Major Hasan?
KAREN BROOKS, Reuters: Not really. It wasn’t. He didn’t put up any defense at all. And he didn’t dispute the facts. And, in fact, he started the trial by saying that the evidence would clearly show he was a shooter. So, up or down wasn’t really that much of a question, if any.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So what was the jury — what was duty of the jury as it went off to deliberate for several hours?
KAREN BROOKS: Well, the duty of the jury — the jury had 45 counts total to consider. So that’s a lengthy list.
You’re also talking about high-ranking military officials. They’re very precise. They want to be very efficient, but they want to get it right. So, what they had to do was go through each charge — or each count, 13 premeditated murder, 32 attempted premeditated murder, and whatever lesser charges they had the options of, and decide on each one and be very meticulous about it.
The big question was whether they were going to find the premeditated murder charges unanimously. And they did. And the reason the unanimous verdict was so interesting or important for prosecutors is that’s what kicked in the possibility of the death penalty. Without a unanimous verdict on at least one of the premeditated murders, they wouldn’t have been able to push for the death penalty, but they did get that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Tell us about the reaction, what you know of the reaction in the courtroom on the part of the major and others there. I know there were victims who survived there, and there were family members of victims there.
KAREN BROOKS: Yes. There was — the judge was very careful about making sure everybody maintained decorum, stayed calm and dignified during the proceedings.
Hasan, just like he did the whole time, showed very little emotion. He did look at the jury forewoman — to — or the jury foreman, the president of the jury panel, while she was reading the verdict, but then he would look back down at his desk, which is what he’s typically been doing the whole time.
The media are not allowed to hang around with the family members or the witnesses or victims before and after testimony, but the reaction inside the courtroom was very mild. We did see one person who seemed to be a family member kind of touch each other on the shoulder, give a little nod in approval. But, other than that, it was pretty emotionless in there.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The testimony — I have been reading about it the last few days — has been prey tough. I’m sure it hasn’t — wasn’t easy for these victims to go — live through this experience again.
KAREN BROOKS: It was very emotional for a lot of them. In fact, many of them broke into tears on the witness stand.
A lot of them maintained composure, but then just got very emotional, even before the doors closed on them on the way out of the courtroom. It was — it was hard for a lot of people to keep their emotions in check. It was — the testimony was very graphic and very emotional.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, Karen Brooks, the decision on the death penalty, tell us where — who makes that decision. And when will we know?
KAREN BROOKS: The punishment phase — or the sentencing phase starts Monday with the prosecution’s witnesses. They have 19 witnesses. Several of them are survivors. They expect to go a day or two.
Then Hasan will have an opportunity to make his statement, if he chooses to do so, on his sentencing. And then the court-martial panel, which — what we know in civilian trials as the jury, will decide the punishment. In order for it to be a death penalty, it has to be unanimous.
If they return a death penalty, the judge has to accept it, but then it eventually has to be signed off by the commanding general of Fort Hood, since it’s his court-martial. And then, eventually, for it to be carried out, it has to be signed off on the president — by the president.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we understand he will continue to represent himself.
KAREN BROOKS: That’s right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Karen Brooks with Reuters, we thank you very much.
KAREN BROOKS: Thank you.