Hasan K. Akbar's Loses Death Sentence Appeal

Hasan K. Akbar's Loses Death Sentence Appeal

In a three to two decision the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the nations highest military court, upheld the conviction and death sentence of Hasan K. Akbar for the March 2003 killing of two Army officers in Kuwait.

The U.C. Davis graduate and member of the 326th Engineer Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division admitted to attacking his fellow servicemen and women with incendiary and fragmentation grenades before opening fire with his M-4 rifle. The solo attack wounded fourteen soldiers, while ultimately killing two others. The two soldiers killed were Army Capt. Christopher S. Seifert, an intelligence officer, and Air Force Maj. Gregory L. Stone, a member of the Idaho Air National Guard.

At trial Akbar's counsel alleged their client was mentally ill when he committed the 2003 attack. In support of this claim, the defense counsel provided Akbar's diary to the court martial panel to demonstrate his deteriorating mental state and descent into mental illness. However, the diary also contained what Judge James E. Baker described as a "running diatribe against Caucasians and the United States dating back 12 years, and included repeated references to (his) desire to kill American soldiers 'for Allah' and for 'jihad.'" In a diary entry dated February 4, 2003 and made public at his court martial, Akbar wrote, "As soon as I am in Iraq, I am going to try and kill as many of them as possible." The court martial panel needed only two-and-a-half hours to convict Akbar, a decision later upheld by the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

In support of Akbar's wide-ranging appeal of his conviction and sentence, his newly retained counsel submitted a massive 328-page brief to the Court of Appeals. Despite the many claims made in the brief, the Court of Appeals' decision focused primarily on Akbar's claim of inadequate representation. The two dissenting judges agreed that Akbar's trial defense fell short, with specific mistakes that included the introduction of his diary.

However, writing for the majority, Judge Kevin A. Ohson said, "We conclude that if there ever was a case where a military court-martial panel would impose the death penalty, this was it." Akbar is one of six military personnel currently awaiting the death penalty.

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