Sentencing phase of Fort Hood shooting court-martial set to resume

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 9:00am

Heartbreaking testimony from victims and family members of the Fort Hood shooting will continue Tuesday, as the court-martial of convicted shooter Nidal Hasan moves closer to a dramatic conclusion.

The sentencing phase could wrap up by mid-week, and the jury panel of 13 officers will then decide whether the Army Medical Corps officer should die for his crimes. The wild card is what Hasan will say to the court -- if anything -- when he gets his turn to speak. He serves as his own attorney and has not put up much of a defense.

He asked no questions of the 12 prosecution witnesses who spoke separately on the stand. None directly addressed Hasan at the defense table or bothered to look at him while they testified.

Two shooting victims, five widows, three parents and an adult offspring were among those who fought tears to describe their physical and emotional suffering.

"We had talked about having more children, growing old together," said Shoua Her, widow of Pfc. Kham Xiong, who was 23 when he was gunned down in November 2009. "All that was stripped away from me. Suddenly, he was not there."

Hasan was convicted Friday of all 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder in connection with the shooting rampage at a Fort Hood deployment processing center. The incident occurred about a month before Hasan was to deploy to Afghanistan.

"I was expected to either die or remain in a vegetative state," said Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler, who was shot four times, including in the head. He recovered, but his left side remains partially paralyzed, and he said Monday that he struggles to cope with the injuries.

"It's affected every facet of my personality," he testified. "I am a lot angrier, a lot darker than I used to be."

Prosecutors will call more witnesses to describe the impact the shootings had on their lives, part of the "aggravating" evidence the prosecution will use to try to demonstrate why Hasan deserves lethal injection.

The court-martial unexpectedly recessed mid-afternoon Monday, and Hasan's standby attorney John Galligan told CNN that "health-related concerns promoted the delay."

From his wheelchair, the defendant, who was wounded by military police in the attacks and paralyzed, repeatedly asked the bench Monday to take brief breaks from the proceedings.

The American-born psychiatrist of Palestinian descent has the opportunity to offer "mitigating" evidence that could persuade the panel to spare his life.

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