WASHINGTON — The nation’s highest military court has affirmed the conviction and death sentence for Hasan K. Akbar, who admitted killing two fellow U.S. soldiers at the start of the Iraq War.
In a closely split decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces rejected claims by Akbar that his original defense team was ineffective. Akbar argued at trial that he was mentally ill when he killed two and wounded 14 in the March 2003 attack in Kuwait.
“We conclude that if there ever was a case where a military court-martial panel would impose the death penalty, this was it,” Judge Kevin A. Ohlson wrote.
The court’s 3-2 decision leaves Akbar one of six military men to be facing execution at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Leavenworth, Kan. Though he had launched a wide-ranging challenge to his conviction and sentence, a big part of the case decided Wednesday dealt with his claim of ineffective counsel.
“With the benefit of appellate hindsight, we could dissect every move of these trial defense counsel and then impose our own views on how they could have handled certain matters differently and, perhaps, better,” Ohlson noted. “However, that is not the standard of review we are obligated to apply.”