FORT HOOD, Texas -- If Nidal Hasan plans to welcome a death sentence as a pathway to martyrdom, the rules of military justice won't let him go down without a fight – whether he likes it or not.

The Army psychiatrist was sentenced Wednesday to die for the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage that killed 13 people and wounded more than 30. But before an execution date is set, Hasan faces years, if not decades, of appeals. And this time, he won't be allowed to represent himself.

"If he really wants the death penalty, the appeals process won't let it happen for a very long time," said Joseph Gutheinz, a Texas attorney licensed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. "The military is going to want to do everything at its own pace. They're not going to want to let the system kill him, even if that's what he wants."

Hasan opened fire at a Fort Hood medical center packed with soldiers heading to or recently returned from overseas combat deployments. He also was set to soon go to Afghanistan to counsel soldiers there, and said he carried out the attack to protect Muslim insurgents on foreign soil.

During trial, Hasan acknowledged that evidence showed he was the gunman, and put up virtually no defense of his actions. He's suggested in writings that he would "still be a martyr" if he received death. At trial, Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, a standby military attorney assigned to Hasan, told the judge that Hasan's "goal is to remove impediments or obstacles to the death penalty."

Now that Hasan's been sentenced to death, a written record of the trial will be produced and Fort Hood's commanding general will have the option of granting clemency. Assuming none is granted, the case record is then scrutinized by the appeals courts for the Army and armed forces.

If Hasan's case and death sentence are eventually affirmed, he could ask the U.S. Supreme Court for a review or file motions in federal civilian courts. The president, as the military commander in chief, also must sign off on a death sentence.

That process is anything but speedy. The military hasn't executed an active-duty U.S. soldier since 1961.

As the appeals proceed, Hasan is going to military death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He was shot in the back during the rampage, paralyzing him from the waist down. He is confined to a wheelchair and requires specialized care – though the death row facility has a health clinic that apparently can meet his needs.

Military appeals courts have overturned 11 of the 16 death sentences of the last three decades – and that doesn't include former Senior Airman Andrew P. Witt, who is one of five men on military death row but whose sentence was ordered reopened recently on appeal.

There's no way to estimate how long the appeals process could take for Hasan or any other case. The longest current case is that of Ronald Gray, a former Army cook at Fort Bragg in North Carolina who was convicted in 1988 on 14 charges, including two premeditated murders.

Once his appeals begin, Hasan will be assigned military counsel. He could also choose to retain civilian lawyers.

John Galligan, a retired Army colonel who was Hasan's former lead civilian counsel, said he doesn't believe Hasan is seeking execution, as his appointed standby lawyers at trial have suggested. He has met with Hasan frequently during the trial and said several civilian attorneys – including anti-death penalty activists – have offered to take on his appeal.

Galligan estimates the military has already spent more than $6 million on Hasan's trial. He said that will triple during appeals, which he believes will take longer than Hasan's remaining life expectancy.

"This will invariably be an appeal that will take decades," Galligan said, "and, Maj. Hasan, I don't know if he'll ever survive it." He added: "If anything's going to kill Hasan in the short term ... it will probably be natural causes due to his medical conditions."

Hasan may have a plausible appeal on the grounds that he was never competent to represent himself at trial. Gutheinz said that argument could be complicated somewhat if Hasan refuses help from any civilian attorneys and is reluctant to cooperate with assigned military counsel – but that may not make things go any faster since there will be pressure for the military system to move cautiously on such a high-profile case.

"Obviously this appeal will have high visibility but I believe, if anything, it will be a slower process," Gutheinz said.

Keely Vanacker, whose father Michael Cahill was gunned down when he charged Hasan with a chair to try and stop the rampage, said she knows that the lengthy appeals process means Hasan is likely to die in prison.

"As long as I don't ever have to see him in the media again," said Vanacker, "that matters more to me than whether or not he's put to death."

Kathy Platoni, who still struggles with images of Capt. John Gaffaney bleeding to death at her feet, said she was surprised he was sentenced to death partly because the families had talked openly about their desire to deny Hasan the right to perceive himself as a martyr. Still, she wasn't opposed to the punishment.

"I don't know how long it takes for a death sentence to be carried out," Platoni said, "but the world will be a better place without him."

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Associated Press writer Ramit Plushnick-Masti contributed to this report from Houston.

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  • Nidal Hasan

    FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Bell County Sheriff's Department via The Temple Daily Telegram shows Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood shooting. Hasan should be forced to shave his beard to avoid any potential jury bias in his pending murder trial, say some military experts and the judge overseeing his pending court-martial. (AP Photo/Bell County Sheriff's Department via The Temple Daily Telegram, File)

  • Nidal Hasan

    FILE - An April 9, 2010 file photo provided by the Bell County Sheriffs Department, shows U.S. Maj. Nidal Hasan at the San Antonio to Bell County Jail in Belton, Texas. Judge, Col. Gregory Gross, is to decide at a pretrial hearing Tuesday Aug. 14, 2012, whether to delay the trial of Hasan. (AP Photo/Bell County Sheriffs Department, File)

  • Nidal Malik Hasan

    FILE - The 2007 file photo provided by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) shows Nidal Malik Hasan when he undertook the Disaster and Military Psychiatry Fellowship program. Hasan is charged in the fatal 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood which killed 13 people and injured more that 30 others. He faces the death penalty if convicted. (AP Photo/Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, File)

  • Fort Hood Shooting

    Maj. Laura Suttinger of the 467th Combat Stress Control Detachment shows a bracelet at a press conference Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010, in Madison, Wis. The bracelet commemorates soldiers who were killed on Nov. 5, 2009, at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, during a shooting rampage suspect Maj. Nidal Hasan. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

  • Fort Hood Shooting

    FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2009 file photo, the entrance to Fort Hood Army Base in Fort Hood, Texas, near Killeen is seen. Eighty-three victims and family members in the worst mass shooting ever at a U.S. military installation are seeking $750 million in compensation from the Army, alleging that willful negligence enabled psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan to carry out a terrorist attack at Fort Hood, Texas. (AP Photo/Jack Plunkett, File)

  • Shawn Manning

    In this Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, photo, retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shawn Manning poses for a photo, at his home in Lacey, Wash., as he holds a memorial bracelet for members of his military unit who were killed in a 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas. Manning, who still carries two bullets in his body from the shooting that killed 13 people, is scheduled to testify at the court martial for Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused shooter this week. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Shawn Manning

    In this Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, photo, retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shawn Manning poses for a photo, at his home in Lacey, Wash. as he holds a photograph from the memorial for victims of a 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas. Manning, who still carries two bullets in his body from the shooting that killed 13 people, is scheduled to testify at the court martial for Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused shooter this week. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Kathy Platoni

    File - In this Nov. 1, 2010 file photo from Beaver Creek Ohio, U.S. Army Col. Kathy Platoni talks of the Fort Hood, Texas shooting that took 13 lives and wounded more than 30 others. After years of delays, Platoni will come face to face with Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the man accused of the 2009 shooting rampage. (AP Photo/Al Behrman, File)

  • Fort Hood Shooting

    This handout photo courtesy of Eduardo Caraveo show Maj Libardo Eduardo Caraveo, who was killed during a mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas on Nov. 5, 2009. A trial for Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is charged in the shooting rampage that left 13 dead and more than 30 others wounded, starts Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Eduardo Caraveo)

  • John Gaffaney

    File - This undated file photo provided by the Gaffaney family shows John Gaffaney, who was killed during a mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas on Nov. 5, 2009. A trial for Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is charged in the shooting rampage that left 13 dead and more than 30 others wounded, starts Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Gaffaney Family)

  • Fort Hood Shooting

    This handout photo courtesy of Keely Vanacker shows Mike Cahill who was killed during a mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas on Nov. 5, 2009. A trial for Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is charged in the shooting rampage that left 13 dead and more than 30 others wounded, starts Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Keely Vanacker)

  • Fort Hood Shooting

    FILE - This file combination image shows handout photos of the victims killed during the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas. From top left, Michael Grant Cahill, 62, of Cameron, Texas; Maj. Libardo Eduardo Caraveo, 52, of Woodbridge, Va.; Staff Sgt. Justin M. DeCrow, 32, of Evans, Ga.; Capt. John Gaffaney, 56, of San Diego, Calif.; Spc. Frederick Greene, 29, of Mountain City, Tenn.; Spc. Jason Dean Hunt, 22, of Frederick, Okla., Sgt. Amy Krueger, 29, of Kiel, Wis.; Pfc. Aaron Thomas Nemelka, 19, of West Jordan, Utah; Pfc. Michael Pearson, 22, of Bolingbrook, Ill.; Capt. Russell Seager, 51, of Racine, Wis.; Pvt. Francheska Velez, 21, of Chicago; Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, 55, of Havre de Grace, Md.; and Pfc. Kham Xiong, 23, of St. Paul, Minn. A trial for Nidal Hasan, who is charged in the shooting rampage that left 13 dead and more than 30 others wounded, starts Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. (AP Photo, File)

  • Alonzo Lunsford

    In this Tuesday, June 4, 2013, photo, retired Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford walks down the steps of his home in Lillington, N.C. Nearly three dozen soldiers, including Lunsford, who was wounded in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas are facing the prospect of being approached and questioned in court by the man many witnesses have identified as the gunman: Maj. Nidal Hasan. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

  • Alonzo Lunsford

    In this Tuesday, June 4, 2013, photo, photos of Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford recovering from his wounds after the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas are displayed on a desk at his home in Lillington, N.C. Nearly three dozen soldiers wounded in the deadly attack on the Texas Army post are facing the prospect of being approached and questioned in court by the man many witnesses have identified as the gunman: Maj. Nidal Hasan. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

  • Alonzo Lunsford

    In this Tuesday, June 4, 2013, photo, retired Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford describes one of his wounds from the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage, at his home in Lillington, N.C. Nearly three dozen soldiers wounded in the deadly attack on the Texas Army post are facing the prospect of being approached and questioned in court by the man many witnesses have identified as the gunman: Maj. Nidal Hasan. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

  • Fort Hood Shooting

    FILE- In this July 20, 2011, file photo, U.S. Army military police walk out of the Lawrence H. Williams Judicial Center where a hearing for U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan was being conducted in Fort Hood, Texas. Hasan is charged in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood that left 13 dead and more than 30 others wounded. Hasan doesn’t deny that he carried out the rampage, but military law prohibits him from entering a guilty plea because authorities are seeking the death penalty. If he is convicted and sentenced to death in a trial that starts Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, there are likely years, if not decades, of appeals ahead. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

  • Fort Hood Shooting

    FILE- In this Nov. 10, 2009, file photo, soldiers salute as they honor victims of the Fort Hood shooting at a memorial service at Fort Hood, Texas. Maj. Nidal Hasan is charged in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood that left 13 dead and more than 30 others wounded. Hasan doesn’t deny that he carried out the rampage, but military law prohibits him from entering a guilty plea because authorities are seeking the death penalty. If he is convicted and sentenced to death in a trial that starts Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, there are likely years, if not decades, of appeals ahead. (AP Photo/Donna McWilliam, File)

  • Fort Hood Shooting

    FILE - This June 11, 2013, file courtroom sketch shows U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, right, sitting by his former defense attorneys Maj. Joseph Marcee, far left, and Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, center, during a hearing at Fort Hood, Texas. Hasan is charged in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood that left 13 dead and more than 30 others wounded. Hasan doesn’t deny that he carried out the rampage, but military law prohibits him from entering a guilty plea because authorities are seeking the death penalty. If he is convicted and sentenced to death in a trial that starts Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, there are likely years, if not decades, of appeals ahead. (AP Photo/Brigitte Woosley, File)

  • John Rossi, Steven Braverman

    FILE- In this Nov. 6, 2009, file photo, Col. (P) John Rossi, Deputy Commander General of Fires and Effects, and Col. Steven Braverman, Commander of Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, address reporters during a news conference following a mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas. Maj. Nidal Hasan is charged in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood that left 13 dead and more than 30 others wounded. Hasan doesn’t deny that he carried out the rampage, but military law prohibits him from entering a guilty plea because authorities are seeking the death penalty. If he is convicted and sentenced to death in a trial that starts Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, there are likely years, if not decades, of appeals ahead. (AP Photo/Killeen Daily Herald, David Morris, File)

  • Fort Hood Shooting

    FILE- In this Nov. 5, 2009, file image released by the U.S. Army, emergency workers prepare the wounded for transport in waiting ambulances near Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center in Fort Hood, Texas. Maj. Nidal Hasan is charged in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood that left 13 dead and more than 30 others wounded. Hasan doesn’t deny that he carried out the rampage, but military law prohibits him from entering a guilty plea because authorities are seeking the death penalty. If he is convicted and sentenced to death in a trial that starts Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, there are likely years, if not decades, of appeals ahead. (AP Photo/U.S. Army, Jeramie Sivley, File)

  • Fort Hood Shooting

    The Lawrence H. Williams Judicial Center is shown behind a protective barrier as jury selection begins, Tuesday, July 9, 2013, in Fort Hood, Texas. An Army psychiatrist going on trial in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood shooting wants to tell potential jurors that he's being forced to wear a military uniform he believes represents "an enemy of Islam," he told a judge Tuesday. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Nidal Hasan, Kris Pope, Tara Osborn, Larry Downend, Mike Mulligan, Steven Henricks

    In this courtroom sketch, U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, left sitting, sits by his former defense attorney, Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, left rear, as Judge Tara Osborn, behind bench, watches prosecutor Maj. Larry Downend, standing, question potential jurors with fellow prosecutors Col. Mike Mulligan, center front, and Col. Steven Henricks, right, looking on, Tuesday, July 9, 2013, in Fort Hood, Texas. Hasan faces execution or life without parole if convicted in the 2009 rampage that killed 13 and wounded nearly three dozen on the Texas Army post. (AP Photo/Brigitte Woosley)

  • Tara Osborn, Nidal Hasan, Joseph Marcee, Kris Poppe

    In this courtroom sketch, U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, right, sits by his former defense attorneys Maj. Joseph Marcee, far left, and Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, center, with Judge, Col. Tara Osborn, behind the bench during a pretrial hearing, Tuesday, July 9, 2013, in Fort Hood, Texas. Jury selection is set to start Tuesday in the long-awaited murder trial of Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of opening fire with a semi-automatic gun at Fort Hood nearly four years ago. (AP Photo/Brigitte Woosley)

  • Fort Hood Shooting

    Television cameramen walk by a Fort Hood Police Mobile Command Center near the Lawrence H. WIlliams Judicial Center as a pretrial hearing gets underway, Tuesday, July 9, 2013, in Fort Hood, Texas. Jury selection is set to start Tuesday in the long-awaited murder trial of Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, accused of opening fire with a semi-automatic gun at Fort Hood nearly four years ago. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Nidal Hasan

    FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2012 courtroom sketch, U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, center foreground with back showing, is seen sitting between members of is defense team during a hearing in Fort Hood, Texas. The Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood is paralyzed from the waist down, after being shot by police that day. A judge has permitted him to represent himself at trial, but his compromised health means that his upcoming court martial will have shorter periods of testimony, more breaks and possible lengthy delays to write legal motions. (AP Photo/Brigitte Woosley, File)

  • Fort Hood Shooting

    FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2009, file photo, a memorial to victims of the Fort Hood shooting is shown before the start of a memorial service, to be attended by President Barack Obama, at Fort Hood, Texas. Osama bin Laden is dead and there hasn’t been a successful attack by al-Qaida-inspired extremists on U.S. soil since the deadly shooting rampage in Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009. But the danger of terrorism remains a reality for Americans, as seen in the attack in Libya in September that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/Donna McWilliam, File)