A military court today sentenced Maj. Nidal Hasan to death for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, giving the Army psychiatrist a path to the martyrdom he appeared to crave in the attack on unarmed fellow soldiers. The same jurors who convicted Hasan last week had just two options: either agree unanimously that Hasan should die or watch the 42-year-old get an automatic sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole. Hasan could become the first American soldier executed in more than half a century. But because the military justice system requires a lengthy appeals process, years or even decades could pass before he is put to death.
The American-born Muslim, who has said he acted to protect Islamic insurgents abroad from American aggression, never denied being the gunman. "He is a criminal. He is a cold-blooded murderer," prosecutor Col. Mike Mulligan said today in his final plea for a death sentence. "This is not his gift to God. This is his debt to society. This is the cost of his murderous rampage." Hasan opted to make no statement to the jury on his own behalf. (Read more Fort Hood shooting stories.)