03-21-2018  9:45 am      •     
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By The Skanner News

More prosecution witnesses in the court-martial of admitted Fort Hood gunman Maj. Nidal Hasan are expected to testify Friday, adding to the roughly 30 others who quickly gave their accounts over two days, in part because Hasan declined to cross-examine them.

This is the third day of testimony in Hasan's trial on charges that he shot and killed 13 people and wounded 32 in the November 2009 rampage at the Army installation near Killeen, Texas.

The prosecution has raced through nearly half of their scheduled 80 witnesses, many of them survivors of the attack at the Fort Hood medical building where soldiers were being prepared for deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Hasan, an Army psychiatrist who was paralyzed by a police bullet during the rampage, is representing himself in the trial. So far, he has not asked questions of the witnesses.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty. In a military capital trial, a guilty plea is not an option, so Hasan's official plea is that he is not guilty of the charges. But on Tuesday he used his opening statement to declare, "I am the shooter."

The prosecution called victims to the stand on Thursday. One after another, the survivors told similar stories of horror and heroism from personal vantage points.

Sgt. Alan Carroll testified that he was sitting and talking with a friend, awaiting his turn with the doctors at the medical building, when the shooting began.

"We heard the shouts of 'Allahu Akbar,' and I looked over," Carroll said. "I didn't exactly know what was going on, and then I realized it was a lot louder than a pop gun should be. I then felt a sharp pain in my shoulder."

He had been shot, but didn't realize it.

"I had my hand over my left shoulder and I was sitting there trying to figure out what was going on," Carroll testified. "I turned around and there was a man behind me and he was laughing ... and I figured it was a training exercise ... but it got harder and harder to move my shoulder."

Carroll said he was shot four more times before he managed to escape.

Sgt. Michael Davis testified that he was waiting to receive an injection for his readiness exam when the shooting began.

"I still thought it was a drill, but ... I heard young lady screaming, 'My baby! My baby! My baby!"

Davis said he took cover under a desk and awaited an opportunity to escape. A few moments later, he took a chance.

"Someone said, 'Go! Go! Go! He's reloading,'" Davis testified. "We started to move. As soon as I stood up, I got hit in the back and hit the ground pretty hard -- face first."

Wounded, Davis played dead until he heard the sound of gunfire transition to the outside. He said he stood up and made his escape through what had become a killing field.

He described the scene for the court: "There was a lot of bodies on the ground. The chairs were overturned. Lot of blood on the floor -- smelled like gunpowder, feces, blood. ... It was pretty bad."

He said he later learned that the woman screaming "My baby!" was Pvt. Francheska Velez. She had become pregnant while serving in Afghanistan and had recently returned to the United States.

She and her unborn child were shot and killed that day.

Sgt. Monique Archuletta testified that when the shooting began, she took cover in the office of her boss. Wiping a tear from her eye, Archuletta painted a brutal picture for the jury.

"You could hear people screaming, the chairs going everywhere," she said. "The metal chairs sounded like they were being scraped across the floor. It sounded like absolute chaos down there."

Lance Avilez, a private at the time of the shooting, testified that he'd been talking with a friend, Pfc. Kham Xiong, who was looking at pictures of his children when the shooting began.

Avilez said he dove to the ground. Xiong never made it, he said.

"I heard a sound," Avilez said. "If you hear it, you'll never forget it, but it's hard to describe. It's like dead weight, a slump. As I get down, I see my battle buddy on the floor. He had an exit wound through the back of his skull."

A U.S.-born citizen of Palestinian descent, Hasan had been scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan before the killings. Prosecutors hope to show that the devout Muslim had undergone a "progressive radicalization," giving presentations in defense of suicide bombings and about soldiers conflicted between military service and their religion when such conflicts result in crime.

Hasan did not want to deploy to fight against other Muslims and believed "that he had a jihad duty to kill as many soldiers as possible," Col. Michael Mulligan, the lead prosecutor in the case, said earlier in the trial.

Hasan told the panel in his opening statement Tuesday, "We mujahedeen are trying to establish the perfect religion." But, he added, "I apologize for the mistakes I made in this endeavor."

The mujahedeen consider themselves warriors who defend the Islamic faith.

Hasan told his family he had been taunted after the al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001. Investigations that followed the Fort Hood killings found he had been communicating via e-mail with Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American radical cleric killed by a U.S. drone attack in 2011.

The case was first set to begin in March 2012, but was delayed repeatedly, notably over a previous judge's unsuccessful demand that the beard Hasan has grown while in custody be forcibly shaved.

Although Hasan was granted his request to represent himself, the judge, Col. Tara Osborn, ruled before the court-martial began that defense lawyers would act as standby counsel during the proceedings.

The defense attorneys brought the trial to a halt Wednesday when they tried to drop out of the case, telling the judge they believed Hasan was trying to help the prosecution achieve a death sentence. But Osborn ruled Thursday that they must continue.

CNN's Josh Rubin reported from Fort Hood. CNN's Ed Lavandera contributed to this report.

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