By lex, on October 14th, 2010
US Army Major Nidal Hassan gets a preliminary hearing, prior to his General Court Martial:
The first few of dozens of witnesses to the 2009 massacre on this sprawling Army base gave chilling testimony on Wednesday in a pretrial hearing for Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who is charged in the attack.
The witnesses described a scene of chaotic horror in which unarmed soldiers were mowed down, or jumped out of windows, or clawed over one another in a desperate reach for safety.
“He looked at me, I looked at him,” said one witness, Sgt. Alonzo M. Lunsford Jr., as he described how he and Major Hasan made eye contact when the major trained a laser-guided handgun on soldiers in a processing center on base. “The laser comes across my line of sight. And I closed my eyes. And I get hit in the head, I spin around and I hit the floor.”
Sergeant Lunsford was shot five times. He has had reconstructive surgery on his face, and has lost most of the sight in his left eye. His testimony was the beginning of what promises to be several weeks, at least, of soul-baring testimony in what is known as an Article 32 hearing, roughly equivalent to a civilian grand jury proceeding.
A necessary formality, really, considering the facts as we know them:
Sergeant Lunsford, who worked at the readiness center, appears to be one of the strongest witnesses for the prosecution. He said he met Major Hasan several weeks before the attack, and recognized him as the gunman. At the earlier meeting, he said, he clearly remembered having an argument with Major Hasan about transferring a patient from a Fort Hood hospital intensive-care unit to its psychiatric ward.
The two men had another encounter shortly before the shootings, when a co-worker called Sergeant Lunsford over because Major Hasan was arguing that he did not need an immunization shot, although he did not have documentation of a prior injection.
Sergeant Lunsford said he saw Major Hasan a third time at the center, just after 1 p.m. on the day of the shootings, sitting among soldiers waiting for medical examinations. Suddenly, according to Sergeant Lunsford, Major Hasan began to cry out, “Allahu akbar” — “God is great” in Arabic.
“I looked at him and wondered why he said, ‘Allahu akbar,’ ” Sergeant Lunsford recalled. “He pulled out a weapon and started discharging.”
But then there’s this:
At times in recent months, Mr. Galligan has hinted that he might mount an insanity defense, but it is not clear whether his client would support that approach.
Now that could be a very interesting line of inquiry: After all, from a Wahhabist perspective, Major Hassan’s actions were not insane, nor merely permissible under the Koran, but positively necessary.
So who, or what, is insane?