Prosecutors seek death penalty in Fort Hood trial

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — Widows and survivors continued to tell their stories Tuesday at the sentencing phase for the Army psychiatrist convicted of killing 13 of his unarmed comrades in the deadliest attack ever on a U.S. military base.

Prosecutors are pursuing a rare military death sentence for Nidal Hasan, who did little to defend himself during the trial over the 2009 attack on the Texas base, which also wounded more than 30.

Jurors who convicted Hasan last week are now being asked to sentence him to death. Prosecutors are hoping that testimony from relatives of those killed and of soldiers severely wounded in the attack help convince jurors to hand down a rare military death sentence.

At minimum, the 42-year-old Hasan will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Cheryll Pearson sobbed when she was shown a photo of her son, Pfc. Michael Pearson, hugging her during his graduation.

“We always wanted to see who he was going to become. Now that was taken away from us,” she told jurors. “I found after he died he was going to come home and be married to his high school sweetheart. That was taken from us. Our grandchildren. That was taken from us.”

Prosecutors wrapped up their case Tuesday afternoon, and the judge called a recess. Hasan said he wouldn’t call witnesses or enter any evidence, though it was unclear if he planned to address jurors before they began deliberating his fate.

This is Hasan’s last chance to tell jurors what he’s spent the last four years telling the military, judges and journalists: that he believes the killing of unarmed American soldiers preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan was necessary to protect Muslim insurgents.

Hasan, an American-born Muslim, has admitted carrying out the attack and showed no reaction when he was found guilty. He is acting as his own attorney, yet he called no witnesses, declined to testify and questioned only three of prosecutors’ nearly 90 witnesses before he was convicted.

Many of those who testified Monday talked about their biggest fear in the long hours after the shooting in the early afternoon of Nov. 5, 2009: the appearance of two soldiers at their doorstep, meaning their husband, parent or child was dead. Some said they waited more than 12 hours while trying in vain to call whatever phone numbers they could find.

When Cindy Seager heard initial reports of a shooting at Fort Hood, she drove home hoping that she wouldn’t see an unexpected car on her street. There wasn’t one when she arrived.

But two officers came to her door at around 1 a.m., about 12 hours after the shooting. Her husband, Capt. Russell Seager, was dead.

“I’d known him for 30 years,” Cindy Seager said. “I had to learn to be independent again, find things to do. It’s getting better, but it’s difficult.”

Prosecutors want Hasan to join just five other U.S. service members currently on military death row. The jury of 13 military officers must be unanimous for such a death sentence, and prosecutors must prove an aggravating factor and present evidence to show the severity of Hasan’s crimes.

No American soldier has been executed since 1961. Many military death row inmates have had their sentences overturned on appeal, which are automatic when jurors vote for the death penalty. The president also must eventually approve a military death sentence.

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