The Fort Hood Shooter Can't Dodge the Death Penalty

Bell County Sheriff's Department/AP file photo

An Army judge in Texas just made a somewhat unconventional ruling in the trial of Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan: She refused to let him plead guilty. Why? It would enable him to avoid execution. Apparently, the Army would not be satisfied to see this alleged mass murderer simply go to jail for a few decades. It appears the prosecution is out for blood.

The situation is a little bit dicey, when you think about it. After Hasan's lawyers made it very clear that Hasan would plead guilty in order to avoid the death penalty, Col. Tara Osborn made it very clear that that wasn't going to happen on Wednesday when she ruled out any guilty pleas. Since it's against Army rules to plead guilty to a capital offense, the defense abandoned its original plan of pleading guilty to 13 counts of premeditated murder and instead asked the court to allow Hasan to plead guilty to 13 counts of unpremeditated murder, a charge that does not carry the death penalty. On Wednesday, the judge said no way since that "would be the functional equivalent of pleading guilty to a capital offense." Ditto to pleading guilty to the 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. That would complicate a not guilty plea to the murder charges.

This is a real "no mercy" sort of situation isn't it? However, the general public probably has little doubt whether Hasan was the one who ran around Fort Hood, Texas in 2009 shooting his fellow soldiers and screaming "Allah Akbar." Hasan is suspected of killing 13 people and 32 others, and it's become glaringly apparent that the Army is not going to give him a break in court. This lastest move is an especially powerful one on the judge's part. The United States military hasn't executed a prisoner since 1961, so one might say this is the trial of a generation. The Army intends to do it right.

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