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Testimony ends in Fort Hood sentencing hearing

5:13 PM, Aug 27, 2013   |    comments
Major Nidal Malik Hasan
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by Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY

FORT HOOD, Texas - Army Maj. Nidal Hasan declined Tuesday to address the military jury that will determine his fate.

Hasan, the military psychiatrist convicted last week in the premeditated deaths of 13 in a November 2009 shooting spree here, faces a possible death sentence. A 13-member panel of military officers will mull over his sentencing beginning Wednesday.

Hasan said "the defense rests" after the last of 20 witnesses in the sentencing phase of his trial told of the devastating fallout on Hasan's victims, including 31 who were wounded.

Hasan, a Virginia-born Muslim, could be the first servicemember executed since 1961. Alternatively, he could face life imprisonment.

Before the court recessed, Hasan said he wasn't going to call any witnesses in his defense. Col. Tara Osborn, the presiding judge, decided not to introduce evidence on Hasan's behalf. "Maj. Hasan, you are the captain of your own ship," she said. Although Hasan declined to talk to the jury Tuesday, it remains unclear whether he'll address jurors Wednesday during closing arguments.

Earlier, prosecution witness Christine Gaffaney, widow of Capt. John Gaffaney of San Diego, said she is still "very lost" by her husband's death. "We never thought we would be apart," she said. "As soon as he died, I became very lost, and I still am very lost."


Gaffaney, killed at 54, was a nurse who had worked with patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He had retired from the military, but his wife said that after 9/11 he wanted to return to active duty to help soldiers. She said she never expected him to be among the casualties because he had arrived at Fort Hood the day before the shooting, after a 15-hour bus ride from Topeka, Kan.


The couple met in the Navy in 1975 and married in 1976. Their son, Matthew, 34, did not want his father back in active duty.

"He blamed me because I supported that he could come back in," she said, fighting back tears. "He's very angry."


She said her husband's "clothes are still in the closet."

Many of those who testified Monday talked about their biggest fear in the long hours after the shooting in the early afternoon of Nov. 5; the appearance of two soldiers at their doorstep, meaning a loved one was dead.

Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler was among 31 victims wounded by Hasan. Shot in the head, shoulder, arm and hip, Zeigler testified that he's left with permanent brain injuries that will force him to take a medical discharge.

"That day, I had emergency brain surgery on the right side of my head, which removed approximately 20% of my brain. I was expected to die or remain in a vegetative state the rest of my life," he told prosecutors.

Zeigler said he was hospitalized for 11 months during which he had 10 additional procedures on his head. He has the cognitive abilities of a high school student and said it is unclear whether he can ever hold a job. He cannot drive and is partially paralyzed.

Jennifer Hunt, of Noble, Okla., became a widow that day when her husband of 2½ months, Spc. Jason Hunt, was killed at age 22. Hunt said her daughters have "taken it pretty well for as young as they are. Me, on the other hand, I pretty much lost my mind for a while. I got suicidal. I had two suicide attempts."

Angela Rivera told of how she was notified that her husband, Maj. Libardo Eduardo Caraveo, was killed just a day after arriving at Fort Hood preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.

"It was 5:25 in the morning when I heard the doorbell and I knew," she said, choking back tears. "I could see the two guys standing in uniform. All I could say was 'I knew it.' I knew he was dead. As they stood in the living room, I kept saying 'I knew it.' I knew it because he did not call me back and he always did."

Caraveo, 52, was a clinical psychologist and the father of five, including three at home, ages 14, 11 and 2. She told of how her oldest daughter became suicidal, her younger daughter left for a year to live with her biological father and her youngest - a son with Caraveo - who every time they passed the airport would say, "Are we going to pick up Daddy now?"

"I would just cry because I did not know how to tell him his daddy was not coming back," she said. "I couldn't do it for awhile - until I finally sought help from a therapist. Through play therapy, she helped me tell John Paul that his daddy was dead and could not come back."

Rivera said she kept her husband's cellphone activated until just three weeks ago.

"My only comfort was to call his cellphone and hear his voice," Rivera said. "For almost four years, I kept his cellphone on. Some of his family members would also call to get comfort just by listening to his voice."

"That man did not just kill 13 that day. He killed 15. He killed my grandson and he killed me that day," Juan Velez, father of Pvt. Francheska Velez, said through an interpreter. His daughter, 21, of Chicago, was pregnant and preparing to return home after deployment to Iraq.

Hasan, 42, admitted to the shootings, which he said were in the name of jihad. He represented himself and did not call witnesses or testify in the 17-day trial. Prosecutors called 89 witnesses who described how Hasan fired at fellow soldiers at a medical processing building where they were awaiting final clearance before deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. Hasan reloaded his semiautomatic handgun with high-capacity magazines several times, firing 146 rounds.

In closing arguments Thursday, military prosecutors painted a picture of Hasan as a disgruntled and radicalized Muslim who became increasingly incensed at America's wars abroad and his own pending deployment to Afghanistan.

"The accused went out that day to kill as many soldiers as he could ... or anybody else who tried to stop him," prosecutor Col. Steve Henricks said.



Contributing: Gary Strauss, Rich Jervis; the Associated Press

Copyright 2013USA TODAY

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