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Fort Hood: If Nidal Malik Hasan talks, will he live?

Prosecutors could throw Fort Hood shooter, Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a lifeline in exchange for intelligence if any links to terrorist groups are confirmed.

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Military prosecutors appear likely to ask for the death penalty for Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who was charged Thursday with 13 counts of premeditated murder.

That prosecutorial tack is indicated by military investigators' position thus far that Hasan acted alone and without instruction when he attacked Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center Nov. 5, killing 13 and wounding 29. The military is also considering charging Hasan with a 14th murder because one victim was pregnant. The death of an unborn child can qualify as murder under military law.

If Hasan is convicted, any death sentence would ultimately have to be approved by Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, Fort Hood commander, and President Obama.

But emerging evidence that Hasan may have terrorist connections could alter the prosecutorial strategy, as his story would hold invaluable information for investigators. One way to get that information would be to offer Hasan a deal – such as revoking the death penalty if he'll fill in the gaps in the investigation.

Getting Hasan to talk could be crucial if evidence points to a broader conspiracy that could include more attacks, says Annemarie McAvoy, a former federal prosecutor.

"A guy like this may well not be interested in talking, because it's an ideological issue with a reward in the afterlife – in fact, a lot of these folks tell [investigators] to pound dirt," says Ms. McAvoy, now an expert on terrorism financing at Fordham Law School in New York. "On the other hand, he's an American and so hopefully if he's pulled away for a while he could become more reasonable and more cooperative.


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