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Ft. Hood Shooting Suspect to Face Death Penalty

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on July 21, 2011 1:41 PM

The U.S. military released more details about the Fort Hood shooting trial this week, announcing that Maj. Nidal Hasan, accused of killing 13 and wounding dozens, will be tried in a military court starting March 5, 2012.

If convicted of murder, Hasan will either be executed or automatically sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

The U.S. military has not executed an American soldier in nearly 50 years.

Though he has yet to enter a plea, the Associated Press reports that Nidal Hasan has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.

A military mental health panel has also evaluated his competency to stand trial and his mental state during the November 2009 rampage, but, according to the AP, the panel's conclusions have yet to be made public.

While the case is notable for its subject matter, it's also important to note that this is one of the few times in recent history that Americans have had a chance to take a peek inside the military justice system.

U.S. forces are governed by a special system known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It gives military courts jurisdiction over all members of the armed forces when they commit enumerated crimes.

This includes murder.

Like civilian courts, there is a jury of one's peers, evidentiary law, due process, and an appellate process that includes the U.S. Supreme Court.

But most importantly to the Fort Hood shooting trial and Nidal Hasan, in cases where a defendant is sentenced to death, the Supreme Court is not the final authority. All military death sentences must receive final approval from the President.

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