Maj. Nidal Hasan and many of his victims in the Fort Hood shooting seem to want the same thing — his death. But while survivors and relatives of the dead view lethal injection as justice, the Army psychiatrist appears to see it as something else — martyrdom.
As the sentencing phase begins Monday following Hasan’s conviction on Friday for killing 13 people in the 2009 attack, the conflict has not gone unnoticed.
Autumn Manning, whose husband, Shawn Manning, survived being shot six times, views the death penalty as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, Hasan would get what he deserves. On the other, it also gives him exactly what he wants.
In the end, she said, it makes little difference because the military has not executed anyone since the 1960s.
“So we know he will die in prison. So at that point, my mind changed because I’d like to see him suffer,” Manning said. “He’s already considered a martyr in the Middle East or wherever those jihadist views are accepted.”
Hasan’s courtroom silence, his refusal to cross-examine almost any witness and his decision to present no defense infuriated the civilian attorneys he fired earlier in the case in favor of representing himself. They had been ordered to remain in court to help Hasan if needed.
The attorneys protested, telling the judge he had a death wish and was paving the way for his own execution. The judge rejected their request to take over the case or to leave Hasan on his own.
Hasan, a U.S.-born Muslim of Palestinian descent, has indicated that martyrdom is a goal.
“I’m paraplegic and could be in jail for the rest of my life,” he told a military panel in 2010, according to documents his lawyer recently released to The New York Times. “However, if I died by lethal injection, I would still be a martyr.”
Kathy Platoni, who has struggled for nearly four years with the image of Capt. John Gaffaney bleeding to death at her feet on the day of the shooting, wrestles with conflicting emotions about Hasan’s sentence.
“On the one hand, the ultimate punishment is death, but in Hasan’s religious convictions this is what he seeks,” Platoni said. “So many of us also feel, ‘Why give him what he wants?’ He needs to be given a punishment that he didn’t choose … The ultimate punishment is for him to live out the rest of his life in prison.”