Prosecution rests case against Nidal Hasan in Fort Hood case

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 2:04pm

FORT HOOD, Texas (CNN) -- The prosecution rested its death penalty case Tuesday against the Army psychiatrist charged with a shooting rampage at Fort Hood that left 13 people dead, clearing the way for the man acting as his own attorney to put on a defense.

Maj. Nidal Hasan, 42, is defending himself against 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder in the November 5, 2009, attack, raising the question of whether he will take the stand.

"If you choose to testify, it is your choice and your choice solely," the judge, Col. Tara Osborn, told Hasan.

"If you do testify, you have to ask yourself questions. ... You can't simply give a statement. It has to be in a question-and-answer format."

Will Hasan testify?

Hasan previously indicated that he intended to call himself and two witnesses to the stand. If he testifies, Hasan is expected to discuss religious justification for his actions.

But there was a question whether Hasan would even put on a defense after he told the court Tuesday morning he no longer wished to call Dr. Lewis Rambo, an expert on religious conversion.

A day earlier, he told the court he would not call Tim Jon Semmerling, who specializes in mitigating factors in criminal cases.

Even so, the judge ordered Rambo to appear in court to speak with Hasan before he made a decision, prompting Hasan to challenge the order.

"I object. I'm not going to be using him," Hasan said. "To waste his time when he has more pressing matters to attend to doesn't seem fitting."

The judge noted his objection, but ordered the witness to appear in court.

"Then if you decide you don't want to have him as a witness after you talk face-to-face, then that's fine," Osborn said.

Much has been made of Hasan's defense or, as his stand-by attorneys have said, the lack of it. The judge declined a request by Hasan's attorneys to drop out of the case. The attorneys argued that they were helping the prosecution put him to death.

Hasan admitted to opening fire in a processing center for soldiers deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq, telling a military jury of 13 officers during his opening statement: "The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter."

The judge has barred Hasan from arguing he acted in the "defense of others," claiming he carried out the shooting to protect Taliban leaders in Afghanistan from the U.S. military.

Declining to cross-examine witnesses

Just as he has throughout most of the court-martial, Hasan declined to cross-examine the prosecution's final witnesses -- most of whom testified about the chaotic final minutes of the shooting.

The day of the shooting, photographer Steven Bennett was taking pictures of a college graduation ceremony for soldiers who had obtained their degrees.

Bennett took pictures of the final minutes of the shooting, capturing images of Hasan outside the deployment processing center and then the shootout with police.

The final photo shows Hasan lying on the ground bleeding as a police officer checks his pulse.

Asked if he recognized the man in the courtroom, Bennett pointed at Hasan: "The bearded individual." Hasan has refused to shave, citing his religious beliefs.

The judge on Monday raised again concerns about Hasan acting as his own attorney after he admitted last week he did not understand that by listing someone as a witness he gave up the right of privileged communication with that person.

"Remember when I told you that I thought you would be better off with a trained lawyer?" Osborn asked.

Hasan responded: "Repeatedly."

"I've advised you before and I'm advising you again that it's not a good policy to represent yourself. ... Do you understand that?" Osborn said.

Hasan said: "Yes, I do."

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