The Muzzammil Hassan Trial: Coda

8 Feb

I know I promised a further analysis of the Muzzammil Hassan trial and verdict, but really – what more can I say?  I’ve analyzed the facts as they are pretty well over the past couple of weeks. I’ve repeated myself several times about what’s at the heart of the issue.  I predicted a 45 minute jury deliberation, and they were out exactly 50 minutes.

Let me turn then briefly to the one part of the trial I didn’t write about – the summations.

If you ever watched Boston Legal, the lawyers on there (when they were busy actually lawyering) prided themselves on their closing arguments.  Making that final argument and wrapping up all the loose ends from the case in a light most favorable to your client’s case is my favorite part of a case.  It’s when you get to be most dramatic and showy to the jury – it’s fun.

Muzzammil Hassan has been convicted of second-degree murder. There’s no “alleged” or “accused” anymore.  He’s a convict.

So, the convict used up every minute of his two allotted hours to make his argument to the jury.  This is a man facing life imprisonment.  It was his last opportunity to be heard – to convince them that he should be acquitted because he acted out of self-defense.

For two hours, he filled the room with self-important psychobabble, repeating again and again all of the paragraphs from the books on battered spouse syndrome he had consumed over the last two years.  In that time, he did not bring up the actual murder.  Not once. He talked all about his feelings, and otherwise gave a closing argument that would maybe seem appropriate within the context of a divorce trial. Not once did he acknowledge or mention that the case was about a woman who was stabbed 40 times and then beheaded.

At the end, he made it clear that he didn’t blame his wife for her murder (what a mensch!), nor did he blame himself. He blamed, instead, the “system” – the lawyers, judges, and counselors who had failed to “fix” Aasiya’s supposedly abusive behavior. The word is hubris.

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Colleen Curtin Gable, who had ably prosecuted this case, gave a stunning, technically perfect emotional closing argument that took up exactly half the time as the convict’s. She made it clear that Aasiya was the victim, not Hassan. That he was the manipulative abuser who was terrified of exposure.  Gable used Hassan’s own witness’ testimony against him time and time again. It was a textbook example of how to give an effective and concise closing argument.

She made the point, quite effectively, that Hassan was trying to deflect blame yet again.  His case was all about blaming Aasiya for her own death.  A more despicable and incorrect concept could not exist.

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The jury returned the only possible, logical verdict.  Judge Franczyk will sentence Hassan on March 9th.

In the meantime, I want to thank all of the reporters who live-Tweeted the proceedings using the #Hassan hashtag.  It was more helpful and meaningful than any audiovisual recording of the trial because the Tweets gave us all the details as they happened.  Video would have resulted in the litigants playing to the cameras, and the trial being reduced to soundbites.  In particular, I’d like to single out WBEN’s Steve Cichon (@SteveWBEN), WKBW’s Laura Gray (@LauraGrayWKBW), and Marissa Bailey from WGRZ (@WGRZMarissa), who were there just about every day, and provided live Tweets that, taken together as an aggregate, provided an almost verbatim record of the court proceedings. I supplemented that with live blog updates from the Buffalo News, WIVB, and WGRZ.  Thanks also to Brad Riter over at WECK for our very fun 5:05 chats most days during the trial.

I received an unprecedented amount of private, positive feedback on my take on this trial, and that’s very gratifying.  I like knowing that you guys are reading & enjoying what I write.

So, the Hassan saga is over (for now), and I foresee him being sent to a penitentiary in the North Country, where he will be treated poorly by his fellow inmates and be completely forgotten by his family and former friends. Reports will trickle back of Hassan being initiated into prison life, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he took his own life sooner rather than later. The only thing stopping him is that he loves himself too much.

What should I write about now?

The Hassan Chronicles:

Hassan: Closing Arguments & Likely Verdict Today
Mo Outsmarted
Hey, Mo! Where you going with those knives in your hands?
Woe is Mo: Hassan uses the Chewbacca Defense
Woe is Mo: Hassan Trial Day Nine
The Mo Show: Day Seven
Riter Radio & Hassan
The Mo Show: People Rest, Defense Fumfers
Hassan Tuesday: What Was & Wasn’t Important
The Takeaway of the Day
A Battered Court
The Hassan Case So Far

Photo Credit: Charles Lewis, Buffalo News

11 Responses to “The Muzzammil Hassan Trial: Coda”

  1. Bill Altreuter February 8, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    The aspect that seemed under-reported to me was how well Judge Franczyk handled a difficult, tricky situation. My contention has always been that the mark of a good judge in temperament; Judge Franczyk showed why this is so, and demonstrated that he possesses this quality in spades. It’s not so easy to do what he did and he deserves credit for it.

  2. Lorraine Marshall February 8, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    You did a terrific job framing this trial for us non-legal people out here, Alan. The trial was riveting – Mo Hassan is like a bad accident – horrific, yet you couldn’t look away. So, Alan, now I’m a ‘fan,’ and look forward to your coverage of the issues in the future!

  3. Ward February 8, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    Alan — I’m sure you will agree that the coordinated wearing of Sabres jerseys on Friday was a sign that the jury had bonded well during the trial, and was a predictor of a quick verdict.

    Bill — I trust Judge Franczyk will not bring out the guitar for the sentencing, but I would be surprised if a Hassan parody song did not eventually emerge from the fertile field of his experience in the case.

  4. Max February 8, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    “What should I write about now?”
    A coda for the Peace Bridge?

  5. Ray Walter February 8, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    Write about how 25 years to life isn’t good enough. The NY Penal law needs a serious revision if this doesn’t qualify for 1st degree murder with a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

  6. Brian February 8, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    25 is a long time.  Life is longer.  He may become eligible for parole, but would it be granted?  Granted I’m old, but given 25 to life, I’d ask for the needle.

  7. Bill Altreuter February 8, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    US sentencing laws are archaic and unnecessarily draconian. How old is this cat going to be when he gets out? Seventy something? Who else is he going to kill? Anybody? I very much doubt it– he isn’t much a threat to anyone now, really. Sure, prison is appropriate, but how much prison do we think we should be paying for?

    Have you ever seen a sentencing Ray? Most of the time the people involved are young– unless it was a white collar crime the ones I’ve seen involve people who were much younger than I am. Lots of times they are being sentenced for something stupid– drugs, or crimes related to wanting to get drugs. Quite often there is a sentencing enhancement, a little bonus tacked on, like a pinch to grow an inch. You’ve been convicted before? Here’s another five years. You had a gun? That’s going to cost you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in court, waiting for my relatively unimportant matter to be called, and watched as some poor kid gets sent over for ten or fifteen or twenty years. What becomes of them when they get out? A 20 year old who is 35, and has spent those years in the company of others who are as ignorant and violent as it is humanly possible to be– what do you think happens?

    Hassan is a sad, crazy person who committed an ugly crime. He is also an extreme outlier as a criminal, and it makes no sense whatsoever to model sentencing laws on people like that.

  8. Ray Walter February 8, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    Bill – I don’t disagree with what you are saying, in fact I pretty much agree with you. My problem with Hassan is with the charge of 2nd Degree vs. 1st Degree murder. Unfortunately the way the statue in NY is written 1st Degree wasn’t an option and it should be. It should be available in just this type of “outlier” situation. I have no interest in rehabilitating someone who commits a heinous crime such as this. I just want him punished for the rest of his life and that isn’t an option in NY.

  9. Hapklein February 8, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

    I remain in the Franczyk fan club. I watched him in murder trial when he was a prosecutor and the guy was uncanny and effective in constructing a chain of evidence  in a trial that was mostly circumstantial. I personally think he was one of the finest law minds in WNY.
    That Hassan trial carried so many appeal ready pitfalls that only alertness of the first order could avert disaster.
    Even when Moe asserted his right to defend himself the Judge bent over backwards to ensured preceding decisions supported his decision.
    He served us and the law well.
    Don’t worry about Moe roaming our streets again. He will get worn to nothing in the system and has a lot of lethal folk monitoring him. Justice will occur.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. New York and 1st Degree Murder « WNYMedia.net - February 9, 2011

    […] Ray Walter suggested that I write about why it is that New York’s 1st Degree murder statute doesn’t cover situations such as […]

  2. World Spinner - March 9, 2011

    The Muzzammil Hassan Trial: Coda « WNYMedia.net…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

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