It's a long, long road
From which there is no return
From lyrics of “He ain't heavy, he's my brother”
After Major Nidal Malik Hasan was found guilty of all charges on Friday, August 23, 2013, the 14th day of his trial, the next couple of days went by in a blur. After twenty witnesses gave family and victim impact testimony on Monday and Tuesday (August 26 and 27), both the prosecution and Hasan rested their case. On Wednesday, Aug. 28, after less than two hours of deliberation, the jury panel delivered Hasan the death sentence for his massacre of 13 (and one unborn child) and injury of 32 soldiers and civilians! The appropriate sentence was finally given to Hasan 1392 days after that tragic event.
Two days later, Hasan was transported to “Fort Leavenworth’s United States Disciplinary Barracks for post-trial confinement”. After receiving his death sentence, Hasan was dismissed from military, and he forfeited all pay and allowances. In addition, he was finally forced to shave his beard!
However, just because Hasan received a death sentence, does not mean that he will be executed. There is a long road to that point. First, the commanding general at Fort Hood must approve the sentence – which he did.
Then, according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), a death sentence is automatically appealed to the U.S. Army Criminal Court of Appeals (ACCA). If the conviction is affirmed by the ACCA, then appeals are possible to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) and then the U.S. Supreme Court. Any of these three courts could overturn Hasan’s death sentence and commute it to life in prison.
So how long could this appeal process last? John Galligan, a retired Army colonel who was the lead council member of Hasan’s court appointed advisory defense team (Hasan was allowed to represent himself during his trial) said, "This will invariably be an appeal that will take decades.”
Once affirmation of the death sentence makes it past these courts and the death sentence is upheld, the following steps take place: the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) makes a recommendation and forwards the case to the Secretary of the Army who then forwards the case to the President Obama with his recommendation – if this process occurs during his presidency. Assuming that this process takes longer than Obama is in office, the presiding president “may request and consider input from the Attorney General, or any other executive branch department. The President then takes action approving, disapproving, or commuting the death sentence.” If the president approves the death sentence, then Hasan could seek habeas relief via the “Article III judiciary”. If denied, then Hasan would eventually receive punishment by lethal injection.