HOUSTON — In a courtroom at Fort Hood, Texas Monday, Major Nidal Hasan sat quietly as witness after witness described how their lives were shattered when he went on a murderous shooting rampage there in November 2009. The jury hearing the dramatic testimony has only two choices with regard to Hasan's fate - life in prison or death.
Relatives of the 13 people killed by Nidal Hasan in his methodical killing spree nearly four years ago told the jury Monday about their pain and suffering. Some parents and spouses of the dead said they feel their lives also ended that day.
Three men wounded in the shootings told the jury how their careers and the lives they had hoped to live were taken away by Hasan.
The convicted murderer remained silent as the witnesses spoke.
Geoffrey Corn, a former military prosecutor who now teaches at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, was on hand at Fort Hood for the dramatic testimony.
"One particularly compelling victim was an army sergeant who had been selected to attend officer candidate school and is now paralyzed for the rest of his life on his left side," he said. "He lost 20 percent of his brain and never was able to fulfill that dream because of this guy's depraved decision to kill as many people as he could."
Testimony in this punishment phase of the trial will continue Tuesday and then Hasan, who is representing himself, will have a chance to either call witnesses or make a statement to the jury. During the first phase of the trial, Hasan called no witnesses and rested his case without making any statement.
Corn says Hasan still has one option left.
"He can give what is called an unsworn statement, which means he is not under oath and he does not have to be subjected to cross examination. And he can give it in a narrative form. That is the most likely scenario because then he gets to say whatever he wants."
Corn says the jury, or panel as it is known in military law, will consider the law and the evidence when making its decision.
"The prosecution has clearly and unambiguously established how incredibly aggravated the nature of this crime was, and the law tells us that the maximum penalty under the law is death," he said. "The real question is does he deserve the maximum penalty authorized by law? And I think when they get to that question they are going to answer yes."
Even if the jury votes for the death penalty, Hasan likely will live in prison for some years to come, as automatic appeals run their course.
There are five inmates on the U.S. military's death row. No military prisoner has been executed since 1961.