The suspense was killing you I am sure.  The actions of Major Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood and the ensuing media barrage related to the investigation and decision to court-martial Major Hasan made this story a no-brainer as #1.  Considering that the  story made the top stories of 2009 lists for S&S, Time  (#5), AP (#8), and numerous other organization, not making this the #1 story would have been more controversial. 

Everyone knows the facts of the case, but to review what makes this the #1 military justice story I give you these bullet points:

  • Maj. Hasan’s shooting spree that killed 13 people and wounded numerous others on Nov. 5th was committed on Fort Hood and investigated by military law enforcement.
  • The on-going investigation in anticipation of a court-martial has already led to more than 40 charges against Hasan.  See coverage here and here.
  • The case has already featured disputes over conditions of confinement and an RCM 706 sanity board.  See here and here.  Maj. Hasan’s counsel also seems more than willing to try this case in the press, which makes every move a story.
  • The case has a continuing connection to recent news, including connections between Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.  See NYT coverage here.  Awlaki is the cleric with whom Maj. Hasan communicated about radical Islam tenets before the shootings.

The Hasan case will continue to press the boundaries between military justice and national security as continuing investigations into the lapses in intelligence that may have contributed to the shootings and links between Maj. Hasan and terrorist figures continue, see here and here.  The continuing development of the story will also highlight American attitudes toward Islam and a growing anti-Muslim sentiment that has even played out in the comments on this blog (note, CAAFlog’s contributors do not endorse the views in these comments a and offensive comments are generally hidden after 3 negative ratings in the comments section; we  generally do not censor comments unless they are patently offensive). 

It is difficult to imagine how this case will not become the next capital court-martial, which will also raise all of the old issues with capital cases in the military–inadequate funding, inexperienced counsel (though Maj. Hasan currently has experienced civilian counsel and the TC is very experienced), and general views on the death penalty in America.  Me thinks this isn’t the last Top 10 list that will feature this story.

4 Responses to “Top 10 military justice stories of 2009–#1: Fort Hood Shootings”

  1. Wendell says:

    Sure it is a top-10 story, but is it military justice story in 2009? I expect it to be a top-10 military justice story in 2010, but not this year.

  2. Christopher Mathews says:

    As the No Man pointed out in the main text, the Hasan story has already focused attention on the pretrial maneuvering in the case. In that sense, I think it’s not only a top general-interest story, but a top military justice story, too.

    Experienced military justice practitioners know that the court-martial battlefield is often decisively shaped by what happens early in the process. I don’t think the general public has the same awareness. To the extent that a case helps educate the people we serve about what goes on before the court is convened, it’s an important one.

  3. Southern Defense Counsel says:

    Fully concur with Judge Matthews. Watching this case play out in the press, and the questions that have already been raised (change of venue, UCI, etc), make this a no brainer. This one is big because it will test the military’s ability to try a capital murder trial, in the public’s eye. Moreso than Martinez and the others, this is the test of the Army’s MILJUS system. If there are missteps in this case, they will be under the microscope, as we’ve already seen.

  4. Wendell says:

    “This one is big because it will test the military’s ability to try a capital murder trial, in the public’s eye.”

    -Which will really happen in 2010.

    While Judge Matthews does make a good point regarding pretrial posturing, that alone isn’t worthy of the top billing for military justice story of the year.