FORT BRAGG, N.C. – Facing a possible death penalty for his fatal attack on fellow soldiers, Sgt. Hasan Akbar (search) will make an unsworn statement to the jury in his own defense, a lawyer said Wednesday.
The statement by Akbar is to come Thursday, the fourth day of the sentencing phase of his court-martial, said the defense lawyer, Maj. David Coombs. Akbar was convicted last week of premeditated murder and attempted murder in the March 2003 attack on the 101st Airborne Division (search) at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait.
Akbar will speak from the witness box, and prosecutors will be able to call witnesses to rebut what he says, but will not be able to cross-examine him. Jurors will be warned that he is not speaking under oath.
The defense contends Akbar was too mentally ill to plan the attack, although they have not denied that he threw grenades into tents, then fired on soldiers as the division, camped in the Kuwait desert, prepared to join the invasion of Iraq.
Earlier Wednesday, Akbar's former platoon leader testified that officers had discussed removing Akbar from the Army before the attack but failed to act.
Capt. David Storch said Akbar's superiors in the 101st Airborne Division had talked about removing him through administrative procedures. He said they decided that such a move was too complicated to handle in a war zone, and there wasn't enough written documentation of Akbar's shortcomings.
"What he lacked was leadership," Storch said. "It took specific instructions. You really had to sit down and explain to him, do this and then do that."
However, he said he saw no signs of mental illness.
Prosecutors have said Akbar, 34, launched the attack because he was concerned about U.S. troops killing fellow Muslims in the war.
On Tuesday, prosecution witnesses gave the jury tearful testimony about how the officers' deaths affected them.
"A sacred trust was broken that evening at Camp Pennsylvania," said Seifert's widow, Terri Seifert of Clarksville, Tenn. "I am terribly lonely."
Clutching a tissue and occasionally wiping away tears, she spoke of the irony of her husband's death because he was the type of man who "would have jumped on a grenade to save his buddies."