FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar quickly and quietly apologized for a fatal grenade attack on his comrades, making a statement to a jury that is about to decide whether he lives or dies.
Akbar spoke to the panel from the witness stand for less than a minute before the defense rested. He made an unsworn statement not subject to cross-examination. He spoke in such a low voice that even prosecutors sitting nearby had trouble hearing.
"I apologize for my actions," he said. "When I did that I felt my life was in jeopardy and I had other problems."
Defense lawyer Maj. David Coombs called Akbar to the stand and said he had advised his client against speaking to the jury. Coombs said he told Akbar it was better to give the jury a written statement, but Akbar wanted to speak to the jurors because he felt a written statement would seem like an excuse.
Jurors were to hear instructions from a military judge and closing arguments before beginning their sentencing deliberations.
More than a dozen soldiers who survived the attack testified earlier in the week.
Some broke down with emotion, and one said, "I couldn't believe it was another American that would do this to another American, especially a soldier, somebody you depend on, somebody you trust to watch your back."
Defense attorneys admitted Akbar threw grenades into troops' tents two years ago in Kuwait, but they said he was too mentally ill to plan the attack that killed two officers and wounded 14 others.
Prosecutors claim Akbar launched the attack because he was worried U.S. troops would kill fellow Muslims. They want the death sentence for the Army sergeant.