I’m not posting much at the moment on the Fort Hood tragedy. People can follow the news as easily as I can. However, this article by Will Heaven in the (U.K.) Daily Telegraph did raise an eyebrow.
The implication of the article is that commanders should make a political decision that seeking the death penalty is not a good idea. Equally I suppose an argument could be made that the defense should make the geo-politics an issue because anything that might be “mitigating” must be considered when seeking to impose the death penalty. I’m not an advocate of the death penalty for various reasons; a political decision is not one of the reasons I’m against the death penalty though.
The issue is whether or not Major Hasan’s conduct qualifies him for and warrants a sentence to death. The arguments should be addressed to the legality of the military death penalty, the legality of R.C.M. 1004 and the process by which a members panel adjudges a death sentence, and whether or not the conduct proved warrants death.
R.C.M. 1004(a)(3) does give the accused “broad latitude to present evidence in extenuation and mitigation.” I’m not convinced the political fallout is included within that language. It seems to me that there are sufficient aggravating facts to consider and the members panel will have to decide if such issues of mental health are “substantially outweighed by any aggravating circumstances.” R.C.M. 1004(a)(4)(C).
Perhaps the ongoing process of the Guantanamo detainees is an augur of how far the Fort Hood commander, initially, will consider politics. I suspect he’s more likely to consider Army family politics before else.