FORT HOOD — Despite evidence prepared and submitted on his behalf, the Army major convicted of the Fort Hood shooting, Maj. Nidal Hasan, opposed the offer and rested his defense with just those words Tuesday afternoon.
Military Judge Col. Tara Osborn repeatedly asked Hasan, who is representing himself in the trial, if he understood what he was doing.
“I do,” he said, answering follow-up questions that the choice was both tactical and strategic.
“You are the captain of your own ship,” Osborn said twice to the 42-year-old Army psychiatrist. “You have the ability to preserve the actual control of the case and what you choose to present to the panel.”
The judge then went through each key point of the sealed information submitted by Hasan’s standby counsel, which included Hasan’s education, medical records and life expectancy, jail records and information prepared by the two witnesses Hasan listed.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before. This is quite unprecedented,” said Richard Rosen, former 1st Cavalry Division staff judge advocate.
Rosen said he wasn’t surprised the judge didn’t allow the counsel to present the evidence because Hasan does have the right to represent himself as he chooses.
“It’s mainly for the appellate court, I think,” said Rosen, who is now a law professor at Texas Tech University. “It’s to ensure she did everything possible to look at his rights.
“I think (the standby counsel) were trying to do everything they could, and good for them,” he added. “They are trying to prevent him from getting the death penalty. They are right ... but ultimately he calls the shots.”
The prosecution wrapped up its testimony phase of sentencing in the morning, after reading the stipulated testimony of the widow of Pfc. Justin DeCrow.
Since Monday, nearly 20 family members of victims have taken the stand.
The widow of the sole civilian slain in the Fort Hood shooting told the court Tuesday she had to wrest control of her scattering family after the “glue” — her husband — was killed Nov. 5, 2009.
Joleen Cahill said since the death of her husband, retired Chief Warrant Officer-2 Michael Cahill, her family had grown distant. They each went through the trauma of the shooting.
She resolved to bring her family back together in a symbolic victory over Hasan.
“He is not going to win,” Joleen Cahill testified. “I am in control.”
Since then, Joleen Cahill and her children have been mainstays at the trial, attending nearly every pretrial hearing, watching the legal drama unfold at the small military courthouse on post.
Her chance to address the shooter came more than 43 months after Michael Cahill was shot to death while attempting to stop the shooting. Several witnesses said Michael Cahill, 62, charged Hasan with a chair held over his head when Hasan gunned him down.
Joleen Cahill was the 14th witness in the sentencing phase of the trial, which began on Monday. Widows, mothers and family members gave a deluge of emotional testimony over two days.
A jury of 13 Army officers who all outrank Hasan will decide as early as today if Hasan’s crimes earned him either a death sentence or life in prison. Each side will have the opportunity to make a closing argument, before the jury is sent into deliberations.
“I don’t know what to expect from (Hasan),” Rosen said. “He will have the opportunity one more time to say something on his behalf.”