If history is any judge, the Army will find it difficult to impose the death penalty on Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan for the bloodiest mass shooting on a U.S. military base in history, the Dallas Morning News reports. Hasan is almost certain to face capital charges before an Army court-martial. But death penalty cases are so rare in the military, and so prone to big mistakes, that death sentences rarely stick.
Executions themselves are almost nonexistent. The last U.S. serviceman to be executed was killed by a firing squad in 1961. Since 1984, when Congress revamped military law regarding the death penalty, the U.S. has sought to execute 49 service members, though never an officer. Fifteen defendants were sentenced to death, but 10 of those penalties were commuted or overturned on appeal.