The US Army psychiatrist who shot dead 13 people at a Texas base chose not to present any evidence during his trial's penalty phase, even though jurors are deciding whether to sentence him to death.
Major Nidal Hasan rested his case without calling witnesses or speaking to counter the emotional evidence from victims' relatives, who talked of eerily quiet homes, lost futures, alcoholism and the unmatched fear of hearing a knock on their front door.
That prompted his standby lawyers to ask to take over. They say he is not presenting evidence that could convince jurors to sentence him to life in prison, such as good behaviour in jail and his offer to plead guilty before trial. But the judge, Colonel Tara Osborn, denied their request, saying that while ill-advised, Hasan had the constitutional right to represent himself.
Prosecutors hope the evidence helps convince jurors to hand down a rare military death sentence against Hasan, 42, who was convicted last week for the 2009 attack that also wounded more than 30 people at the Fort Hood military base.
The judge dismissed jurors after Hasan declined to offer a defence, but then asked Hasan more than two dozen questions in rapid fire, affirming that he knew what he was doing. His answers were succinct and just as rapid. "It is my personal decision," he said. "It is free and voluntary."
Closing arguments are to be heard, but whether jurors will hear from Hasan remains unclear. He has been acting as his own lawyer but has put up nearly no defence since his trial began three weeks ago.
The trial's penalty phase is Hasan's last chance to tell jurors what he has spent the last four years telling the military, judges and journalists: that he believes the killing of unarmed American soldiers preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan was necessary to protect Muslim insurgents. He was barred ahead of the trial from making such a defence.
Hasan rested his case shortly after more than a dozen widows, mothers, fathers, children and other relatives of those killed, along with soldiers wounded during the shooting rampage, told the court of their lives since November 5, 2009.
Sheryll Pearson sobbed when shown a photo of her son, Pfc Michael Pearson, hugging her during his graduation. "We always wanted to see who he was going to become. Now that was taken away from us," she said.
Prosecutors want Hasan to join just five other US service members currently on military death row. That would require a unanimous decision by the jury of 13 military officers and prosecutors must prove an aggravating factor and present evidence to show the severity of Hasan's crimes.