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US Fort Hood rampage suspect declines last chance to defend himself; jury starts deliberating

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FORT HOOD, Texas - The Army psychiatrist accused in the deadliest mass shooting ever on a U.S. military base turned down his last chance Thursday to defend himself before a verdict, while military prosecutors asked jurors for a unanimous murder conviction in the 2009 Fort Hood rampage.

"The defence chooses not to make a closing statement," Nidal Hasan told the judge — ending a speedy trial in which insisted on representing himself but offered little defence.

Prosecutors laid out a detailed roadmap of their case during their closing argument, saying there was no question that Hasan planned and carried out the attack.

"The facts I laid out to you give you only one option," the prosecutor, Col. Steve Henricks, told jurors. "The accused without a doubt — without any doubt at all — had a premeditated design to kill."

Jurors began deliberating Thursday afternoon and were dismissed for the day after several hours. Deliberations are scheduled to resume Friday morning.

A unanimous conviction would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty against Hasan, who faces numerous counts of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder for the attack that killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 at the Texas Army post on Nov. 5, 2009.

Hasan told jurors during a brief opening statement nearly two weeks ago that evidence would "clearly show" he was the shooter. Most of the dead were fellow soldiers who, like himself, were preparing to be sent to Afghanistan.

Since then, he has sat mostly silent in his wheelchair.

Hasan, who was paralyzed after being shot by officers responding to the shooting, has said the attack was necessary to protect Muslim insurgents abroad from American soldiers preparing for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. He described himself as a soldier who had "switched sides."

But most of his arguments have played out through leaks to the media or directly to the judge, so they couldn't be considered by the jury.

The lawyers appointed to help Hasan — he has insisted on defending himself — protest that the U.S.-born Muslim is trying for a conviction and a death sentence in an attempt for martyrdom.

Hasan gave only one piece of evidence to jurors: an evaluation from his boss that called him a good soldier, just three days before the attack.

Henricks said Hasan asked for the highest-tech weapon available when he went to a gun store months before the attack and began practicing at a gun range. Hasan also used laser sights, which Henricks said "established intent to kill."

The prosecutor noted that Hasan targeted soldiers, leaving most civilians unscathed.

Hasan submitted as evidence his last officer evaluation report from his supervisor at Fort Hood, Dr. Ben Phillips, who selected "Outstanding Officer, Must Promote" from three performance-rating options. The evaluation is dated Nov. 2, 2009 — three days before the attack.

When Hasan asked him about the favourable review, Phillips suggested that was his default choice for all soldiers "unless I basically wanted to end their career."

Evidence submitted by prosecutors include Hasan's laptop hard drive, which revealed Internet searches for "jihad" and an article about Taliban leaders urging attacks on Americans. There are also dozens of photo diagrams of the medical centre where the shooting unfolded, each marked up by soldiers who drew where they were standing — and where they hid — where when the gunfire began.

The last witness to testify for prosecutors had said Hasan told her shortly before the shooting, without prompting, that the Army would "pay" if he were ever ordered deployed overseas.

___

Associated Press writer Will Weissert contributed to this report from Fort Hood.

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