Andrea Mitchell   |  August 06, 2013

Prosecutors seeking death penalty in trial of Fort Hood shooter

After an 18 month delay, the military trial began for Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan who opened fire at a medical processing center at the military base in Fort Hood, Texas. Daniel NPR’s Zwerdling discusses.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the military trial finally began today for nadal hassan , the army sopsychiatrist who opened fire at a medical processing center in ft. hood, texas. the rampage killed 13 soldiers and injured dozens more. this morning he said he was the shooter, apoll guysing for any mistak mistake i made in "trying to establish the perfect religion." he will act as his own attorney. he could end up cross examining some of the witnesses he is accused of shooting, cuincluding a retired army staff sergeant who was shot seven times.

>> i will not show fear in the face of the enemy because the man that shot me major hassan is going to be the man who's cross examining me. that's a huge challenge.

>> correspondent in npr's investigations unit knows this case far better than any of us. what's the significance of this trial and of what it means not only the terror war but also personally for these victims?

>> imagine if, god forbid , were you one of natal hassan 's victims. in addition to the 13 who were killed, some have brain damage , some have partially paralyzed. they will have a lifetime of pain and imagine now that you go into this courtroom at ft. hood and the man who shot you approaches you, looks you in the eye and starts asking you questions and you have to say yes, sir, no, sir. that's what i keep trying to get in my mind and i can't wrap my brain around that.

>> some of his victims say they've had problems with the va, problems getting their treatment, yet he is still, if i'm correct, on salary? until convicted?

>> he's received $300,000 since the shootings. you're innocent until proven guilty but one of the bizarre things about this whole trial is that nadal hassan has never denied that he was the shooter. in fact he tried throughout the hearings over the months to take credit for doing the shootings and in june he was upset because he -- the judge said you can't tell the prospective jurors that you shot those people and nadal h hassan wanted to plead guilty and they would not allow him. under military law if you have the chance of being sentenced to death you can't plead innocent. one of the things people are forgetting about this whole case is the fact that years before the ft. hood rampage, people who worked with him and supervised him at walter reed where he was a psychiatrist, some of them had serious concerns about this guy. they had conversations actually in the year before ft. hood where they wondered could nadal hassan be psychotic. one of his supervisors actually wondered outloud to his colleagues, do we think nadal hassan could commit fratricide? that's of course when a soldier shoots a fellow soldier. meanwhile, the fbi, nadal hassan popped up on their radar. remember, they were spying on the radical muslim cleric anwar ael al awlaki. there's this army psychiatrist writing e-mails back and forth with awlaki asking had him what do you think about a soldier killing a fellow soldier, what do you think about killing innocents --

>> they let this get away from them. this brings us all the way back to yemen, al awlaki having been taken out by a drone strike, a very controversial killing presumably because of his u.s. citizenship . how did this get through the cracks?

>> there are some very -- there are some understandable ways it fell through the cracks and some puzzling ways. i've talked a lot with people at walter reed that worked with and supervised nadal hassan . some genuinely thought this guy could and valuable asset if he straightens out. he's a muslim psychiatrist. that would be very valuable in the u.s. army . some thought if we can just work with him a little bit harder we can get him to be a good psychiatrist because his evaluations for six years had been terrible. supervisor said he was unprofessional. he tried to proselytize to vulnerable mental health patients. he told him islam can save your soul which is a huge taboo in mental health to proselytize. he they thought he was paranoid and belligerent but some people thought maybe we can turn him around. noernd, some supervisors also thought, if we get rid of the only muslim psychiatrist we've got here, we can be in a long messy legal battle. let's pass him on and let ft. hood deal with him.

>> political correctness run amok and tragedy ensues. thanks for your