FORT HOOD — For the first time since Maj. Nidal Hasan’s trial began, jurors saw images Tuesday of the dead bodies they previously heard dozens of witnesses and victims vividly describe.
Prosecutors played a seven-minute crime scene video taken before investigators removed any bodies or evidence from the building where the shooting took place. It showed the locations of the nine bodies that remained in the facility.
The jury viewed individual photos of each victim and the locations of the 146 shell casings and six ammunition magazines from the FN 5-7 handgun Hasan, 42, allegedly used to carry out the fatal shooting spree.
The judge took great pains to limit the exposure of the graphic evidence to spectators. Presiding judge Col. Tara Osborn confined the display of the crime scene video and photos of bodies to jurors and Hasan, projecting the images only to small video monitors placed in front of them.
During a hearing outside the presence of the jury, Osborn only permitted the display of autopsy photos of retired Chief Warrant Officer Michael Cahill, Pfc. Kham S. Xiong and Lt. Col. Juanita Warman to printed 8½-by-11-inch photographs handed directly to the forensic pathologists who performed their autopsies.
In approving the admittance of hundreds of autopsy photos, Osborn appeared to be more concerned with the evidence provoking emotional outbursts from spectators than jurors.
“They will not incite or inflame the emotions of this senior officer panel,” she said. “They all have combat experience.”
At the outset of each day of trial, Osborn has told victims’ family members present in the court to not show any outward emotion. She asked anyone overcome by evidence or testimony to excuse themselves from the court.
The pace of testimony slowed significantly Tuesday, with the prosecution only calling five witnesses as the tenor of the trial shifted from personal accounts of the shooting to more technical details provided by law enforcement and experts.
In total, 67 have testified since the trial began Aug. 6. The prosecution believes it may rest its case Friday, according to Fort Hood officials.
Prosecutors placed the sheer size and scope of the Fort Hood shooting on display Tuesday by entering hundreds of pieces of physical and analytical evidence.
The amount of evidence from the crime scene caught the court by surprise when the government asked the court to catalogue more than 200 pieces of evidence Tuesday morning, leading to a 90-minute delay of the start of the hearing.
“It was probably the worst scene I had ever seen, mostly on scale and size,” said FBI shooting incident reconstruction expert Brett Mills. “It was a large room, not a house. You had moveable furniture, a lot of personal effects on the ground and blood as a biohazard.”
It took an FBI evidence response team more than a day and a half to document all evidence through photographs and video. The team needed about a week to collect all the evidence inside and outside of building 42003 of the Soldier Readiness Processing Center.
The building is still considered an active crime scene and has remained under lock and key since Hasan admittedly shot dozens and killed 13 on Nov. 5, 2009.
Law enforcement also sealed three other surrounding buildings, erecting fences with razor wire to preserve the scene, Chief Warrant Officer Kelly Jameson told the court.
FBI Special Agent Susan Martin told the jury she found 146 spent shell casings and six empty ammunition magazines from the FN 5-7 Hasan allegedly used during the mass shooting.
The FBI’s shooting reconstruction expert pointed toward five locations in the facility from where Hasan opened fire. The prosecution showed the jury a three-dimensional computer model of the site indicating the likely location of the shooter at certain points during the shooting.
Hasan Trial Day 6: Who testified
- Special Agent Mario Villaplana — Team lead of FBI’s San Antonio Evidence Response Team that responded to Fort Hood shooting.
- Special Agent Susan Marton — FBI agent from Austin office’s evidence response team that catalogue bullets and magazines from crime scene.
- Special Agent Brett Mills — Shooting incident reconstruction expert from FBI’s laboratory in Quantico, Va.
- Chief Warrant Officer Kelly Jameson — Fort Hood investigator in charge of crime scene.
- Dr. Robert Conrad Stabley — Forensic pathologist who performed autopsy of Lt. Col. Juanita Warman.
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.