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No closing argument from Fort Hood rampage suspect

Published: Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 2:00 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Tony Gutierrez)
Lead prosecutor, U.S. Army Col. Michael Mulligan, arrives at the Lawrence H. Williams Judicial Center as proceedings in the court martial of U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan continue, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, in Fort Hood, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — The soldier on trial for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood didn't give a closing argument on Thursday even after prosecutors laid out a detailed roadmap of their case and asked jurors for a verdict that would allow the death penalty.

Maj. Nidal Hasan is acting as his own attorney but declined to address jurors after prosecutors wrapped up their closing argument. When the judge told Hasan he could begin, he said: "The defense chooses not to make a closing statement."

Prosecutors said there was "no doubt" that Hasan had planned and carried out the deadliest mass shooting ever on a U.S. military base.

Hasan is facing numerous counts of premeditated murder for the attack that killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others at the Army post in central Texas. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

The Army psychiatrist told jurors during a brief opening statement nearly two weeks ago that evidence would "clearly show" he was the shooter, and he described himself as a soldier who had "switched sides." But since then, he has sat mostly silent.

Hasan has raised few objections during the 13-day trial, and he questioned only three of the nearly 90 witnesses called by prosecutors. He also presented only a single piece of evidence: an evaluation from his boss that called him a good soldier.

On Thursday, military prosecutors asked jurors for a unanimous conviction on the premeditated murder charges, which would allow them to seek the death penalty — the government's priority in the case.

The prosecutor, Col. Steve Henricks, repeatedly emphasized the word "premeditation," trying to dissuade the jury — 13 high-ranking military officers — of even considering a conviction on a lesser charge that would take the death penalty off the table.

"There's no doubt the evidence you heard in this case shows he committed the offense," Henricks said.

Henricks said Hasan asked for the highest-tech weapon available when he went to a gun store a few months before the Nov. 5, 2009 attack, and he soon began practicing at a gun range. Hasan also used laser sights, which Henricks said "established intent to kill."

The prosecutor noted that the shootings, which started inside a medical building crowded with soldiers preparing to deploy, came the same day Hasan's unit was at that building. Hasan was assigned to soon join the unit in Afghanistan on a six-month tour.

The last witness to testify for prosecutors had said Hasan told her shortly before the shooting, without prompting, that the Army would "pay" if he were ever ordered deployed overseas.

"Some things speak for themselves. It doesn't require any evidence — because it's no coincidence — that the accused did his crime on Five November," Henricks told jurors.

Henricks also noted that Hasan targeted soldiers, leaving most civilians unscathed. After Hasan fled the medical building, and civilians outside asked him what was going on, "he tells them it's a paintball gun. It's a training exercise. He's keeping his wits about him even after what happened," Henricks said.

Hasan, an American-born Muslim, has been unapologetic about saying the rampage was necessary to protect Muslim insurgents abroad from American soldiers preparing for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. But most of his arguments have played out through leaks to the media or directly to the judge, so they couldn't be considered by the jury.

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Associated Press writer Will Weissert contributed to this report from Fort Hood.

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Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber

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