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Emotional Testimony During Sentencing of Fort Hood Shooter

Brigitte Woosley

The second day of sentencing begins today in the military trial of convicted Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan.

The court is likely to hear more testimony from survivors and the families of those killed.

A jury found Hasan guilty of premeditated murder Friday in the November 2009 mass shooting that killed 13 and wounded 32. In the sentencing phase, the focus has shifted to the human cost of Hasan's shooting spree.

Prosecutors are asking the jury of 13 military members to sentence Hasan to death, and during this phase of the trial survivors and family members of the victims are taking the stand to telltheir stories of grief and pain.

Staff Sgt. Patrick L. Zeigler Jr. testified of how his life has changed since Hasan shot him four times. His brain was injured, leaving him in the hospital for almost a year, and he says he has lost much of the movement on his left side. Zeigler said he is unable to drive or lift up his son. "I'm unable to interact and play with him like a normal father would," he said.

Ziegler's mind will never fully recover, he testified; currently he is at the cognitive level of a tenth- or eleventh-grader. "I’m a lot angrier and a lot darker than I used to be,” he said.

Through hours of testimony, Hasan stayed mostly silent as he heard firsthand how the shooting stopped lives in their tracks. 

Credit Image courtesy of III Corps
Pvt. Francheska Velez, 21, of Chicago, killed in the Fort Hood shooting on Nov. 5, 2009, was also pregnant at the time. Her father testified during the sentencing phase of the Hasan trial Monday.

Juan Velez, the father of Francheska Velez, a 21-year old Private killed in the shooting, testified through a translator that losing her has "hurt me down to the bottom of my soul." Velez was pregnant at the time of the shooting. Her father testified that Hasan "did not just kill 13 people. He killed 15. He killed my grandson and he killed me."

Hasan continues to represent himself. He has the opportunity to speak for himself during this phase of the trial, but he has said little thus far, and declined to ask any questions of the witnesses during the first day of sentencing Monday. He did ask the judge for several recesses throughout the day, which were granted the first three times. When Hasan asked to break early for lunch, the judge curtly moved on to the next witness for the prosecution. 

Hasan continues to represent himself in the trial, against the advice of his attorneys and the judge. But he can choose to use his lawyers at any time. Once all of the testimony is finished, the jury will deliberate and then sentence Hasan, perhaps this week. If he is sentenced to death, an automatic appeals process takes place, which would likely take years. 

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