Send the Fort Hood Shooter to Prison and Throw Away the Key

Pursuing the death penalty against the Fort Hood killer makes a long terrible process even longer.

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This courtroom sketch shows military prosecutor Lt. Col. Steve Henricks, right, speaking as Nidal Malik Hasan, center, and presiding judge Col. Tara Osborn look on during his court-martial Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, in Forth Hood, Texas. Hasan is representing himself against charges of murder and attempted murder for the 2009 attack that left 13 people dead at Forth Hood.

I am a staunch liberal, progressive, Democrat. And I am in favor of the death penalty. 

I have been since the execution of John Wayne Gacy in Joliet, Illinois. I was a talk host in Chicago at the time and was privy to interviews by Illinois reporters who had won a lottery to meet with the mass murderer and interview him before he took his last breath and that lethal injection entered his veins.

It was his lack of remorse for the more than 30 young men and boys he sexuallly assaulted, tortured and killed. His blaming of the victims. Prior to that I was against the death penalty...but we can thank Gacy for changing all that for me, as I wanted to hold his arms down myself as they stuck that needle into him.

I think it is quite normal for many who are against the death penalty to be in favor of it at times, like when their own family member is a victim, when the murderers are heinous (i.e. Jeffrey Dahmer) or more recently, terrorists, like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Nidal Hasan.

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This week the trial of Major Hasan commenced. Representing himself,  he will have the opportunity to tell the world how much he hates America, our military and how we, not the Taliban or al-Qaida, are terrorists. He will try to justify his actions, and in doing so, make a mockery of the very system he has the right to a trial within. So there are those that feel strongly about an "eye for an eye" and want to see him put to death, even if they are not in favor of the death penalty.  But they are wrong in my opinion.

I am not asking for you to feel that Hasan deserves to live; he doesn't. But the reality is, as cut and dry as the case may seem, it is a bit more complex. So let's look at the facts in this case thus far.

Hasan is charged with killing 13 people and injuring many more. He is charged with 13 specifications of premeditated murder and 32 specifications of attempted premeditated murder. More than 30 people were wounded in the shooting; these are a lot of charges and the burden of proof rests on the prosecution. The jury is comprised of high ranking officers who must be unanimous in their findings of guilt on each charge. So this is not the slam dunk legally that we may think.

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The massacre of these innocent victims was nearly four years ago. The case has faced numerous delays as Hasan fired attorney after attorney and then sought to wear his beard, against military standards, in a court of law. Keep in mind, Hasan has won every fight, with the exception of using defending the Taliban as his defense.

This courtroom gives Hasan the very stage for which he is putting on his play, and in his mind, and perhaps to terrorists throughout the world, he is the star. And since the trial's start has been delayed over and over, often due to requests from Hasan, any of the hundreds of decisions large or small could be fair game on appeal. The entire record will be scrutinized by military appeals courts that have overturned most of the death sentences they've considered.

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No active duty U.S. soldier has been executed since 1961. The military justice system is not accustomed to dealing with death penalty cases. Historically, they have a bad track record. Many of these cases have been overturned.

A study in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology identified just 41 cases between 1984 and 2005 where a defendant faced a court-martial on a capital charge. Eleven of the 16 death sentences handed down by U.S. military juries in the last 30 years have been overturned. And with the number of appeals that Hasan will likely submit if sentenced to death, it could take many many years,  and perhaps none of us, victims included, will see Hasan enter any death chamber; all the while, his name and face will re-surface in both the news and in the courtroom for decades to come.

Because of our desire to have that "eye for an eye," Hasan cannot plead guilty, for he would not receive the death penalty based on military law if he did. I think they are wrong for fighting so hard to end his life. They should accept his plea, throw him in a cell, toss the key. In seeking to sentence this man to death, we are causing his victims to face the man who shot them. He will cross examine them. He will be right there in person, in the flesh. He will be there as they sit with the mental, emotional and physical pain and anguish. He will be there erasing any progress these people have made in healing and getting to a new normal in their lives. 

And all the while, he'll be spitting upon our country and our military; the very country affording him these rights and the very military and country paying him while he screams his tale of woe and vengeance.

So let's save the time, the money and the heartache for the victims and their families. Let Hasan plead guilty and let's all move forward and on with our lives. Never forgetting what he's done; but certainly forgetting his name and his face as he rots away in a cell.

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