By Karen Brooks
FORT HOOD, Texas, Aug 9 (Reuters) - More soldiers were to testify on Friday at the capital murder court martial of a U.S. Army psychiatrist who admits shooting dead 13 people and wounding 31 others at a Texas base in November 2009.
Fifteen witnesses on Thursday offered emotional depictions of gun smoke, screams, blood and chaos with soldier after soldier describing Major Nidal Hasan's attack on a crowded medical facility at the sprawling Fort Hood post.
"He was firing at soldiers running out the front door. He was firing at soldiers running out the back door," Sergeant Maria Guerra said. "He was firing at anyone who was moving and anyone who tried to get out of the building."
Hasan, a U.S.-born Muslim, admitted to the jury on the opening day of the trial on Tuesday that "I am the shooter." He told the court he "switched sides" in what he called a U.S. war on Islam.
Prosecutors opted against bringing terrorism charges against Hasan, who is leading his own defense with the help of standby counsel. Those lawyers have made clear to military judge Colonel Clara Osborn they find Hasan's approach in the trial "morally repugnant" because they believe he is actively seeking the death penalty instead of life in prison - the only two punishment options should Hasan be found guilty.
Hasan, who is not allowed to plead guilty to avoid a death sentence, disputed the standby attorneys' claim he was seeking the death penalty by lethal injection. Prosecutors say he is likely trying to win favor with the jury by declining to contest the facts of the case and instead angle for life in prison.
Despite pre-trial conjecture about the emotional impact of having Hasan cross-examine his victims, Hasan has not questioned any of the victims or rescuers.
Instead their accounts have gone uncontested, bombarding the jury with angry tears and terrifying descriptions of the shootings.
Osborn has also denied the witnesses a chance to address Hasan from the stand.
Of 27 prosecution witnesses who have taken the stand since the trial's opening day, Hasan has questioned only two, neither of whom were at the scene of the attack. More survivors are expected to testify on Friday.
Hasan could face the death penalty if all 13 officers on the jury find him guilty of premeditated murder. The U.S. military has not executed a service member since 1961.
The shooting spree took place days before Hasan was to be deployed to Afghanistan. The soldiers were unable to fire back because they are prohibited from carrying weapons on base.
Military police eventually shot Hasan, who was paralyzed from the waist down and attends court in a wheelchair. (Additional reporting by Lisa Maria Garz and Jana J. Pruet; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Grant McCool)