Fort Hood shooting family members testify at Nidal Hasan sentencing phase

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FORT HOOD, TEXAS (CNN) — Surviving victims and family members of the Fort Hood massacre testified in emotional terms Monday over their personal trauma and grief, as the sentencing phase for the convicted murderer’s court-martial moved quickly toward a dramatic conclusion.

A military jury by Tuesday could begin considering whether Maj. Nidal Hasan will get capital punishment for the horrific November 2009 shootings on this sprawling Army base.

The Army Medical Corps officer was convicted Friday on all 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder in connection with the shooting rampage at a Fort Hood deployment processing center. The incident occurred about a month before Hasan was to deploy to Afghanistan.

“I was expected to either die or remain in a vegetative state,” said Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler, who was shot four times, including in the head. He recovered, but his left side remains partially paralyzed, and he said Monday he struggles to cope with the injuries.

“It’s affected every facet of my personality,” he testified. “I am a lot angrier, a lot darker than I used to be.”

Twenty percent of Zeigler’s brain was removed in the initial surgery and he has had more than 10 additional procedures. He leaves the service in October on medical retirement, but said he will never be fully functional.

Military officials say prosecutors could present up to 16 witnesses, including a liaison or family member for each victim killed in the attack. They will describe the impact the shootings had on their lives, part of the “aggravating” evidence the prosecution will use to try to demonstrate why Hasan deserves lethal injection.

During the nearly three-week trial phase, military prosecutors called 89 witnesses and submitted more than 700 pieces of evidence.

Unclear is whether Hasan himself will now present testimony or speak on his own behalf. He serves as his own attorney and has so far refused to put on a defense in court.

The American-born psychiatrist of Palestinian descent has the opportunity to offer “mitigating” evidence that could persuade the panel to spare his life.

He refused to cross-examine the first of the victims and their families testifying.

Angela Rivera lost her husband, Maj. Libardo Caraveo, a 52-year-old clinical psychologist preparing to deploy to Afghanistan when he was gunned down.

When officials rang her doorbell to inform her of the news, some 14 hours after the shooting, “All I could say was I knew it, I just knew he was dead because he did not call me back” after the incident.

Rivera and Caraveo had three children living in the house at the time, including a 2-year-old.

Rivera testified her 12-year-old daughter was distraught, quoting her saying, “‘Mom, I hope who did this understands the pain he has caused all these families.”

An older daughter could not cope, later became suicidal, and remains emotionally troubled, said Rivera.

By Bill Mears

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