The U.S. government has announced its intention to seek the death penalty in the case of Nidal Malik Hasan, charged with 13 counts of murder in connection with the massacre at the Ford Hood, Tex. military base November 5.
Because the killings occurred on a military base and Hasan serves in the U.S. Army, he is subject to the military justice system which is governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Hasan is represented by an attorney, retired Army Col. John Galligan, and the Army will also provide the accused with a military counsel free of charge.
The next step is a hearing under Article 32 of the UCMJ which entitles the accused to a "th[o]rough and impartial investigation of the charges against him." A military officer will then investigate whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a court martial. The officer will make a recommendation to a "convening authority" – a military commander with the power to order a general court martial – the most serious kind. The convening authority decides whether the death penalty will be sought.
A military judge would be appointed to preside over the case and it would be heard by a jury comprised of military personnel referred to as "panel members." All must outrank Maj. Hasan. The prosecutor must be a military lawyer (a judge advocate).
Ordinarily the trial would take place at Ft. Hood. But Galligan has already questioned whether Hasan could get a fair trial there, and it is possible that trial could be moved to another base.
At the trial, both sides would have the opportunity to present witnesses and cross-examine the other side's witnesses. In a capital case, Hasan must be found guilty by all 12 jurors. Similarly, all 12 must agree for the death penalty to be imposed.
Once a verdict is agreed to, Hasan could turn to the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals and then to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which is made up of five civilian judges appointed to 15-year terms by the President of the United States. If he loses the second appeal, he could turn to the U.S. Supreme Court for a final ruling.