A military jury made the right decision Wednesday when it sentenced Nidal Hasan to death in the murders of 13 unarmed soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009.
Hasan, it seemed, did everything in his power to assure that he would receive the death penalty. He opted to be his own defense counsel and said nothing to mitigate his actions, other than to claim he was “retaliating” for U.S. military actions in Muslim countries. He sees this as a path to martyrdom, which shows exactly how twisted his mind has become.
What Hasan did was cowardly and evil. He will not die the death of a martyr. His end will be the fate of a heartless, senseless murderer.
But that end won’t come for some time.
While a government in the fashion of what Hasan apparently envisions as they way government should operate would have taken him out immediately and summarily executed him, ours in the United States requires a review of the trial and sentence. In the eyes of many, Hasan should have forfeited his rights as an American for due process, but thankfully that is not how the legal system works. Capital punishment should not be a means of exacting revenge or expressing anger. It is a sentence that should be soberly and sparingly applied in cases in which an individual has committed an act so heinous that he or she has forfeited the right to live.
In this case, we agree with the conclusion arrived at by the jury that found Hasan had done exactly that. He deserves to become perhaps the first military death row inmate to be executed in more than a half-century.
From Wednesday’s decision, the case will be reviewed by the highest-ranking military officer who called for the court martial for approval or rejection. If approved at that point, it would move to the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals and then to the highest military court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. The final appeal, if made, would go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The last step in the military line of events is presidential approval of the sentence, which likely won’t occur before there is a new president in the White House.
In the meantime, Hasan will join the five people who already on the military death row. That group includes Ronald Gray, who is appealing his death sentence for multiple murders and rapes in federal court. His death sentence was approved five years ago by then-President George W. Bush.
Even without Hasan’s cooperation, the appeals are almost guaranteed to take at least four years to exhaust.
But at some point in the future, he will be called upon to pay for his crimes, not as a martyr as he wants, but as the cold-blooded murderer that he is.
— The Albany Herald Editorial Board