FORT HOOD, Texas - A military jury yesterday sentenced Maj. Nidal Hasan to death for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, handing the Army psychiatrist the ultimate punishment after a trial in which he seemed to be courting martyrdom by making almost no effort to defend himself.
The rare military death sentence came nearly four years after the attack that stunned even an Army hardened by more than a decade of constant war. Hasan walked into a medical building where soldiers were getting medical checkups, shouted "Allahu akbar" - Arabic for "God is great!" - and opened fire with a laser-sighted handgun. Thirteen people were killed.
Hasan, who said he acted to protect Islamic insurgents abroad from American aggression, had no visible reaction when the sentence was announced, staring first at the jury forewoman and then at the judge. Some victims' relatives were in the courtroom but none showed any reaction, which the judge had warned against.
The American-born Muslim of Palestinian descent never denied his actions at the huge Texas Army post. In opening statements, he told jurors that evidence would show he was the shooter and described himself as a soldier who had "switched sides."
The same jurors who convicted Hasan last week needed to agree unanimously on a death sentence. The only alternative was life in prison without parole.
Kathy Platoni, an Army reservist who still struggles with images of Capt. John Gaffaney bleeding to death at her feet, said she was not opposed to the punishment.
Hasan could become the first American soldier executed in more than half a century. But because the military justice system requires a lengthy appeals process, years or even decades could pass before he is put to death.
He was expected to be taken on the next available flight to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
In his final plea for a death sentence, the lead prosecutor assured jurors that Hasan would "never be a martyr" despite his attempt to tie the attack to religion.
"He is a criminal. He is a cold-blooded murderer," Col. Mike Mulligan said. "This is not his gift to God. This is his debt to society. This is the cost of his murderous rampage."