FORT HOOD — With no challenges from Maj. Nidal Hasan, his prosecutors whittled a panel of 26 officers to a group of 13 that will decide the accused Fort Hood shooter’s fate in his upcoming capital murder trial.
Hasan could face the death penalty if the jury decides unanimously he is guilty of perpetrating the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting spree that left 13 dead and dozens injured at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Processing Center.
The jury consists of nine colonels, three lieutenant colonels and one major. The 11 men and two women will come from Army posts across the U.S. when Hasan’s trial begins Aug. 6.
During Tuesday’s 12-minute hearing, the prosecution successfully removed three officers — all colonels — from the panel of prospective jurors. The prosecution challenged the inclusion of the three on Monday after they were questioned individually. Two of the three had expressed reservations about the death penalty.
Osborn overruled one of their requests Tuesday, ruling the officer’s opinions about adjudging the death penalty did not make him ineligible to serve on the jury.
“One would expect all members in the jury to share a sincere desire to ensure the death penalty is applied fairly,” Osborn ruled.
However, the prosecution essentially trumped Osborn’s ruling by using its lone peremptory challenge to strike the colonel from the jury.
Lead prosecutor Col. Mike Mulligan told the court the officer’s decision to seek out some administrative information about the trial and his uniform appearance set him apart from other jurors.
The colonel wore two rows of ribbons and medals, fewer awards than a typical colonel would have earned. Mulligan implied the colonel was breaking appearance regulations by not wearing all of his awards.
“He is a man who follows his own guidance,” Mulligan said.
The judge then granted the dismissal.
Hasan, as with jury selection last week, offered no challenges to any of the jurors. His questioning was limited to inquiries into soldiers’ attitudes towards Islam and their personal faith.
Unlike a civilian jury, the military panel selected over a four-day process will only need to have a two-thirds majority to convict Hasan. A non-unanimous guilty verdict would still guarantee the major a life sentence without the possibility for parole.
But in order to consider the death penalty, all 13 jurors must agree Hasan is guilty of premeditated murder.
Osborn set the next pretrial hearing for Thursday. The court will take up administrative matters regarding trial logistics, Osborn said.