A U.S. Army general Wednesday approved a possible death penalty in the future military trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan, the American Muslim accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009.
Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell, the Fort Hood commander, formally announced that the charges against Hasan will be tried as capital offenses in a general court-martial. His decision means that if a panel of military officers finds Hasan guilty, they can consider the death penalty as a possible sentence.
Campbell's decision moves the case forward and also eliminates the possibility that Hasan, a psychiatrist, could enter a guilty plea and prevent a costly and lengthy trial.
A court-martial could be months away.
"After a referral of a case to trial by court-martial, a military judge will receive the case and at some future date, set a schedule," said a statement from Fort Hood Wednesday. "The first likely matter for a military judge to schedule in this court-martial is the arraignment of Hasan. No military judge has been named to this case at this time."
A capital court-martial is highly unusual. The last military execution in the United States took place in 1961.
Hasan is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32 others in November, 2009. Witnesses at a preliminary hearing identified him as the man who calmly walked through a medical building on the country's largest military base, shooting and frequently reloading his handgun as he shouted "Allah Akbar," which means "God is great" in Arabic.