Idaho victim's family reacts to Maj. Nidal Hasan's death sentence

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by ASSOCIATED PRESS

KREM.com

Posted on August 28, 2013 at 7:43 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 28 at 11:10 PM

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) -- A military jury has sentenced Maj. Nidal Hasan to death for killing 13 people during the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood. Two Inland Northwest natives were shot during the attack.

Hassan shot and killed Spokane native Michael Cahill. His ashes were buried in Billings, Montana. Hassan injured a soldier from Post Falls. George Stratton suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder.


“I figured the government would have no choice but to give him the death penalty because the panel members were all colonels in the Army, said Stratton’s step-mother, Lynne Stratton. “Since it was other service members that were wounded and killed, there was no way they couldn't give him the death penalty.”

Statton testified a few weeks ago. His father went with him.

Hasan never denied being the gunman and has said the attack on unarmed soldiers was motivated by a desire to protect Muslim insurgents fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
Because he did not dispute the allegations, the trial has been primarily a pursuit of the death penalty.

Lynne Statton said when the attack happened she wanted Hasan dead. Yet, her feelings changed after the hearing.

“Why let him die as a martyr now,” questioned Stratton's father, George. “It's another small victory for terrorism around the world . I think they should just shove him in a dark hole and leave it at that.”
 
The same jury that sentenced him to death Wednesday also found him guilty last week in the attack, which also wounded more than 30 people at the Texas military base.

“I think he needs to suffer like all the wounded,” said Stratton.
 
Military prosecutors believed that any sentence short of death would deny.
 
Before an execution date is set, the sentence will face years, if not decades, of appeals.

In opening statements, the American-born Muslim acknowledged to the jury that he pulled the trigger in a crowded waiting room where troops were getting final medical checkups before deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The same jurors who convicted Hasan last week had just two options: either agree unanimously that Hasan should die or watch the 42-year-old get an automatic sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole.

Hasan could become the first American soldier executed in more than half a century. But because the military justice system requires a lengthy appeals process, years or even decades could pass before he is put to death.

Stratton said she called her son immediately after he heard the verdict Wednesday afternoon.

“He feels the same way I do,” she added, “he wanted to see him just rot in prison.”

The lead prosecutor assured jurors that Hasan would "never be a martyr" despite his attempt to tie the attack to religion.

"He is a criminal. He is a cold-blooded murderer," Col. Mike Mulligan said Wednesday in his final plea for a rare military death sentence. "This is not his gift to God. This is his debt to society. This is the cost of his murderous rampage.”

For nearly four years, the federal government has sought to execute Hasan, believing that any sentence short of a lethal injection would deny justice to the families of the dead and the survivors who had believed they were safe behind the gates of the Texas base.

And for just as long, Hasan has seemed content to go to the death chamber for his beliefs. He fired his own attorneys to represent himself, barely put up a defense during a three-week trial and made almost no effort to have his life spared.

Mulligan reminded the jury that Hasan was a trained doctor yet opened fire on defenseless comrades. He "only dealt death," the prosecutor said, so the only appropriate sentence is death.

He was never allowed to argue in front of the jury that the shooting was necessary to protect Islamic and Taliban leaders from American troops. During the trial, Hasan leaked documents to journalists that revealed him telling military mental health workers in 2010 that he could "still be a martyr" if executed.

When Hasan began shooting, the troops were standing in long lines to receive immunizations and doctors' clearance. Thirteen people were killed and more than were 30 wounded. All but one of the dead were soldiers, including a pregnant private who curled on the floor and pleaded for her baby's life.

The attack ended only when Hasan was shot in the back by an officer responding to the shooting. Hasan is now paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair.

The military called nearly 90 witnesses at the trial and more during the sentencing phase. But Hasan rested his case without calling a single person to testify in his defense and made no closing argument. Even with his life at stake during the sentencing hearing, he made no attempt to question witnesses and gave no final statement to jurors.

Death sentences are rare in the military, which has just five other prisoners on death row. The cases trigger a long appeals process. And the president must give final authorization before any service member is executed. No American soldier has been executed since 1961.

Hasan spent weeks planning the Nov. 5, 2009, attack, including buying the handgun and videotaping a sales clerk showing him how to change the magazine.

He later plunked down $10 at a gun range outside Austin and asked for pointers on how to reload with speed and precision. An instructor said he told Hasan to practice while watching TV or sitting on his couch with the lights off.

When the time came, Hasan stuffed paper towels in the pockets of his cargo pants to muffle the rattling of extra ammo and avoid arousing suspicion. Soldiers testified that Hasan's rapid reloading made it all but impossible to stop him. Investigators recovered 146 shell casings in the medical building and dozens more outside, where Hasan shot at the backs of soldiers fleeing toward the parking lot.

In court, Hasan never played the role of an angry extremist. He didn't get agitated or raise his voice. He addressed the judge as "ma'am" and occasionally whispered "thank you" when prosecutors, in accordance with the rules of evidence, handed Hasan red pill bottles that rattled with bullet fragments removed from those who were shot.

George Stratton’s physical wounds have healed, but his step-mother said the emotional trauma remains.

“He just feels like he's being cheated out of a healthy normal life, said Stratton. “They need purple hearts that they deserve, so they can get the medical treatment  they deserve . They just need to be taken care of, not forgotten.”

George Stratton was not available to speak with KREM 2 News. He left the U.S. Army in 2012.

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