Fort Hood Shootings
8:14 am
Wed August 7, 2013

What You Need to Know From Day One of the Fort Hood Trial

Today marks Day Two in the trial of Major Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people and wounding more than 30 at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009. The trial is expected to take months – only twelve of the nearly 300 witnesses testified Tuesday. More of the prosecution’s witnesses will testify today as prosecutors continue to build a case against Hasan. 

Texas Tech Law Professor Richard Rosen observed yesterday’s testimony. He says the most memorable testimony came from two eyewitnesses to the shooting, Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford and Michelle Harper. Rosen says while there is a lot of evidence and many witnesses, the findings in the case are straightforward.

“You’ll hear from ballistics experts of course and possibly a pathologist talk about the causes of death and so on.  But I don’t think Hasan will put up much of a defense to the merits in this case," Rosen says.

Hasan pleaded not guilty because in a court martial, defendants cannot plead guilty in a capitol punishment case. If all 13 jurors agree, Hasan could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole. 

Testimony is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m.

In the meantime, here's what you need to know about Day One of the trial:

  • Opening Statements: Government lawyers said the evidence will prove Hasan committed premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder. Hasan surprised some when he agreed the evidence will prove he is the shooter but, he says, the trial will only tell one side of the story. 

"We the Mujahideen are imperfect Muslims trying to establish a perfect religion in the land of supreme God... I apologize for any mistakes I made in this endeavor."

  • First Witnesses: The first eight witnesses included several gun salesmen, a shooting range owner, Hasan’s neighbor, and an FBI crime scene investigator, among others. Legal experts say they were called first to establish a motive for Hasan.
  • Staff Sergeant Alonzo Lunsford's testimony: Sgt. Lunsford was shot seven times in the head, back and stomach. During his testimony, he went step by step through the attack, explaining his decision process and reaction to the shooting. Lunsford described seeing soldiers getting shot and people trying to escape. At one point he was asked to stand up and point to where each bullet entered his body. 
  • The 911 Phone Call: The final witness on Tuesday was Michelle Harper. She worked in the building where the shooting occurred. Harper testified yesterday that, after she escaped the building, she saw Hasan participate in a shootout with police. The 911 call was played during her testimony. You could hear gunshots, people screaming and Private First Class Michael Pearson moaning in the background. Pearson died of gunshot wounds. 
  • Hasan's Cross-examination: Hasan cross-examined two of the 12 witnesses. One, was his former superior officer, Lt. Col Ben Kirk Phillips. Hasan asked Phillips questions about his job performance reviews; The officer had written positive things about Hasan. Texas Tech Law Professor Richard Rosen says Hasan is possibly trying to build a record of good behavior for sentencing.

​"To say, 'Even though I did all these bad things, nevertheless, I was a good soldier.' It’s the good soldier defense. It’s kind of like, 'Other than that Mrs. Lincoln how was the play?'  Here, it's not going to have the same impact it would, say, on your typical drug case, AWOL or desertion case. There, it would have some impact. Here, I’m not sure it matters.”