The trial of Major Nidal Malik Hasan got underway this morning in Fort Hood, Texas, the army base where Hasan admittedly killed 13 and injured more than 30 during his 2009 shooting rampage. The death penalty-seeking prosecution used its opening statement to highlight what it says was Hasan’s methodical preparation for the shooting spree, which included buying several guns and repeatedly practicing his shooting before he launched his attack.
But perhaps more noteworthy, at least in terms of what is to come over the trial’s coming weeks, was the prosecution’s claim that the former Army psychiatrist intended to kill scores of soldiers as part of his “jihad duty.” That line of argument suggests that Hasan’s radical Islamic belief will indeed play a significant part in the government’s case, something that was one of many unknowns heading into the trial.
For his part, Hasan, who is representing himself, kept things relatively short during his opening statement, making it clear from the get-go he would not dispute that he was the gunman. Here’s the Associated Press with the scene in the courtroom:
Hasan spoke for less than 2 minutes during his opening statement, which offered few details but touched on his religion. “The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter,” he said, adding later that it also would show “that we are imperfect Muslims trying to establish the perfect religion… I apologize for any mistakes I made in this endeavor.”
Reuters reports that he added, “Witnesses will testify that war is an ugly thing. Death, destruction and devastation are felt from both sides, from friend and foe. Evidence from this trial will only show one side. I was on the wrong side but I switched sides.” The trial could last months, and include Hasan cross-examining the soldiers who he shot during his spree.