FORT HOOD, Texas — Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who admitted to the 2009 shooting rampage at the military base here, was convicted Friday of 13 counts of premeditated murder — and could become the first American soldier to be put to death in half a century.
Hasan was also convicted, by a military jury, of 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the attack, the deadliest mass murder on a base in American military history.
Under military law, a conviction on at least two counts of premeditated murder makes Hasan eligible for the death penalty. The penalty phase of the court-martial is to begin Monday.
Hasan, 42, who acted as his own lawyer during the trial, said he had changed sides in what he called an American war against Islam. He presented no witnesses and did not make a closing argument to the jury.
Prosecutors said Hasan committed the attack because he did not want to be deployed to Afghanistan and that he believed he had a jihad duty to kill as many soldiers as possible.
The military lined up 90 witnesses against him. One prosecutor, Army Col. Steve Henricks, told the jury that Hasan turned the Army base into his “personal kill zone” on Nov. 5, 2009.
A police officer ended the rampage by shooting Hasan, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. He gave an opening statement in the trial and watched the rest of it from his wheelchair.
The prosecutor detailed for jurors how Hasan had asked for advice from Guns Galore, a firearms store near the base, and bought the highest-tech pistol available. He later trained at a range and used laser sights, Henricks said.
Besides the 13 dead, 31 people were hurt in the attack. Hasan shot at a 32nd and missed.
In the punishment phase, 16 witnesses are expected to testify, including one family member from each of the 13 people Hasan killed. He will also be allowed to speak, without restrictions.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, five men are on the military’s death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The last military execution took place in April 1961, when an Army private was was hanged after being convicted of rape and attempted murder.
Hasan joined the Army in 1988. He became a doctor and later a psychiatrist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. He was promoted to major in May 2009, and two months later was transferred to Fort Hood.
Prosecutors presented evidence that he bought a handgun, two laser sights, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and six high-capacity magazines. At the gun range, prosecutors said, he replaced bullseye targets with silhouettes.
Twenty days before the shooting, Hasan told a fellow doctor in a casual conversation that if the army was going to make him deploy, he was going to “make them pay,” the fellow doctor testified.
Prosecutors say Hasan chose to launch his attack at Fort Hood’s medical readiness center because he knew it would be crowded with soldiers preparing to deploy. They said he chose Nov. 5 because his unit was to report to the center that day.
Witnesses said Hasan stood on a chair, yelled, “Allahu Akbar!” and began firing on soldiers in a waiting area, 18 feet by 9 feet. Many were shot in the back, some as they were lying on the floor or crawling away.
Evidence showed some tried to fight back. Spc. Frederick Greene of Mountain City, Tenn., apparently tried to charge Hasan. He was shot 12 times, a forensics expert testified.
A retired chief warrant officer picked up a chair and tried to hit Hasan. He was stopped and killed by three bullets to the neck.
The FBI collected 146 shell casings inside the building and more outside, from a gun battle with Fort Hood police who responded to the shooting.
Erin McClam reported from New York.