The U.S. Army major charged with the 2009 Fort Hood shootings will have a military trial and face the death penalty if convicted, according to a decision by the commanding general at the Texas army base.
A 40-year-old Muslim army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Hassan allegedly went on a deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009. He is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.
Lieutenant General Donald Campbell's decision to approve the case for a court-martial came after he assessed "all matters submitted by defense counsel" as well as the advice of an investigating officer. Campbell's examination led him to "consider death as an authorized punishment."
Hassan's trial will be scheduled once a military judge is assigned to the case. Hassan will first need to appear at an arraignment, but it is unclear when this will take place.
Hassan's lead attorney, John Galligan, asked Campbell in May not to seek the death penalty, but Galligan told the Associated Press on Wednesday "I believe the army as an institution has long been planning to go this route."
Two army colonels who had previously examined the case had recommended that Hassan be court-martialed and face capital punishment.
Galligan has refused to say whether he will pursue an insanity defense for Hasan and to share the results of a military mental health panel's evaluation of Hasan. In January, this panel, known as the "sanity board," found that Hassan was sane and fit to stand trial.
The FBI alleges that Hassan had contacts with the American-born Islamic cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, who is currently a leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and considered to be a serious threat to the United States.
U.S. lawmakers have voiced their disapproval of the Pentagon's handling of Hassan's case and particularly how it ignored warning signs of the suspect's increasing radicalization.
In February, Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, an independent, and the panel's top Republican, Sen. Susan Collins, issued a report criticizing the Pentagon and the FBI for failing to respond to warnings from Hasan's colleagues that the psychiatrist was "a ticking time bomb."