On October 20, 2010, I took the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe what likely is the most important court-martial since My Lai. It would be easy to be overwhelmed at the raw emotion of the Article 32 investigation of the charges against Major Nidal Hasan. Seated behind families of victims of the November 2009 tragic events, you are compelled by the intensity of the moment. Hearing Sgt. Todd testify, as a laser sight appeared on his chest, that he uttered the words, “Oh, okay” as he ran into the line of fire was so extraordinary; it cannot be fully described. It must be felt.
But this was much more than emotion. As a law student interested in criminal justice and military law, this was a chance to see some of the very best military prosecutors and defense lawyers this country has to offer in action. We watched as direct and powerful testimony and evidence was delivered by the law enforcement officers who responded, the lead criminal investigators and an Army doctor whose life was saved by one of the officers. With Professor Geoff Corn as our guide, we were able to spend time with the prosecution and the defense, as well as a number of other players in the investigation. This process is a massive undertaking for all parties involved, and the ability to observe the subtle, legal conflicts and unfolding of trial strategies (watch batteries!) is priceless. I have not seen it all, but I am conflicted as to ever experiencing it again.