Tag Archives: Aasiyah Zubair

A Battered Court

21 Jan

Most of yesterday’s proceedings in the Muzzammil Hassan murder case took place behind closed doors.  The lawyers and the accused were in chambers for hours yesterday morning, hashing out “representation” issues.  As they filed out for a lunch break, the jury had not been in the courtroom at all that day, and the lawyers indicated that they had to go back and do some research.

When they reconvened at 2, it became evident that Hassan was looking to either conduct a “hybrid” defense with his counsel, Jeremy Schwartz, acting as a legal advisor only, or in the alternative Hassan demanded that he be permitted to fire Schwartz on the spot.   Hassan claimed that no one knew the case as well as he, and that Schwartz was providing ineffective counsel; Schwartz didn’t call, didn’t visit, didn’t read his emails.  Hassan – ever the victim.

The judge denied everything, and Hassan had a temper tantrum, yelling at the judge and otherwise showing contempt for his lawyer, for the process, for the proceeding, and ultimately for his wife.

Because this trial is brought by the people to find justice for her murder.  Hassan made a mockery of that process – it was a circus that Hassan manufactured to manipulate the court, and he evidently hoped to either charm or creep out the jury.

In mid-tantrum, Hassan started packing up his stuff and asking to be taken back to the holding center, that he refused to participate in the case anymore, arguing that only he had anything to lose if he was allowed to represent himself. The most telling exchange about Hassan’s sense of self-worth?

Hassan: I’m the only one whose life is hurt.

Judge Franczyk:  Well, that’s debateable.

Judge Franczyk, loath to call a mistrial, told Hassan he could stay and be quiet, or he could go in another room and watch the proceedings via CCTV where he couldn’t disrupt things.  Hassan opted for closed-circuit monitoring of the trial – he could see everything and hear everything, but not himself be heard.

The jury was instructed to infer nothing from Hassan’s absence as they filed back in to hear testimony from a physician’s assistant who treated Aasiyah Zubair’s injuries suffered at her husband’s hands.  Zubair had claimed to have fallen off a bike, and the physician’s assistant testified that the injuries couldn’t have been suffered that way, and Zubair ultimately admitted that her husband had beaten her.  Also heard from was the Wal*Mart clerk who sold Hassan the knives he used to murder and mutilate his wife.  The transaction took place just hours before the murders, and Hassan was unrushed, cool, calm, and collected.  He tried the knives’ effectiveness out on a piece of cardboard.

The trial resumes on Monday.

(Thanks to the Buffalo News for its article, and to Laura Gray (Channel 7), Marissa Bailey (Channel 2), and Steve Cichon (WBEN) for their live Tweets.

The Hassan Case So Far

20 Jan

I wish that the Hassan murder trial had taken place a month and a half ago so I could have attended and live-blogged/tweeted it.  It’s absolutely captivating for two reasons – firstly, the personality disorders that led Hassan to be a cold, calculated, premeditated murderer are playing out even during the trial; secondly, the sheer chutzpah of his defense strategy; and thirdly, the fact that it sheds light on spousal abuse – that it crosses neighborhood, cultural, and socioeconomic boundaries.

I’m not a psychiatrist, so I can’t diagnose this guy, but it would seem as if he’s a sadistic narcissist at best.  He’s currently mounting a defense that can be summed up as “but she was mean to me”, setting himself up for a “battered spouse” “extreme emotional distress” type defense.  If the jury buys it, that Aasiyah Zubair’s alleged mistreatment of Muzzammil led him to lash out in a sudden fit of rage of extreme emotional distress, maybe he gets away with manslaughter rather than murder, and a shorter sentence.  It’s also possible to use extreme emotional distress as part of a straight insanity case, but this guy has had problems securing the services of an expert witness to testify that he didn’t know what he was doing because of a temporary insanity.

It’s a long-shot, but it’s the best he’s got given that he confessed to the act itself, so all that’s left to litigate is his state of mind.

But the facts today don’t bear out a person in extreme emotional distress who suddenly lashed out.  This was quite evidently planned and pre-meditated.  So far, the jury has seen surveillance video showing Hassan buying at Wal*Mart the hunting knives he used to murder and mutilate his wife, and it shows him calmly trying out their effectiveness on some cardboard.  He used so much force while beheading his wife that there were gouges made in the tile floor below.

Further bolstering that this was planned and premeditated, Hassan hid his car where his wife wouldn’t notice it as he laid in wait for her in the darkened Bridges studios.  When his older son, waiting in Aasiyah’s minivan outside, became worried, Muzzammil drove up out of nowhere and calmly handed him an M&T envelope full of cash, and drove away.

Those are not the acts of someone who snapped – they are the acts of a narcissistic psychopath who was going to punish his wife for her insolence and insult to his manhood.  After all, he had made her sign a manipulative and illegal “memorandum of understanding” where she agreed to never speak ill of him to the cops, or anyone else.  If she violated it, Hassan would limit her access to the kids.

Hassan’s older kids both testified about Hassan’s repeated physical and mental abuse of Aasiyah, and the family babysitter recounted a time she was driving Aasiyah and the kids to the airport and Muzzammil ran them off the road.  His family lived in physical and mental fear of him.  It was revealed that Hassan offered to pay off his older daughter if she’d agree not to testify against him – like a common mobster.

But one of the sickest things that happened yesterday was that, when it came time for his older daughter and the family babysitter to testify, Muzzammil Hassan asked the judge to permit him to conduct the cross-examination.  The judge rightfully denied that request, and asked Hassan why he would want to put his daughter through that.  It was a sickening request by a horrible and manipulative tyrant.  It also sets Hassan up for years’ worth of jailhouse appeals to claim that his defense was ineffective, or that the judge erred – all of which will fail, but will ensure that Mr. Hassan keeps busy during his lengthy tenure in Attica.

The trial continues today, and you can follow along by searching for “#Hassan” on Twitter.  Several local reporters are live-tweeting the proceedings using that hashtag, including Channel 7’s John Borsa and Laura Gray, WBEN’s Steve Cichon, Channel 2 and reporter Marissa Bailey.  (Channel 4 is doing so, as well, but as they’re not using the hashtag, their Tweets get lost in the fog of the other 1,000 people I follow.)  The Buffalo News is live-blogging the proceedings.

Some have expressed a desire not to follow this trial, or that it’s ridiculous that a trial is taking place for someone who beheaded his wife.  Perhaps, but this trial is Aasiyah’s only chance to be heard, as a victim.  It’s her only shot at justice, and I want to hear and read the details of the torment she underwent for years.

I’m also reminded that at least one local commentator tried to make Islamophobic hay of this whole incident – that it was somehow caused or exacerbated by the family’s faith or ethnicity.  A more scurrilous and ignorant accusation could not possibly exist.  It’s being reported in the national press, and even in the UK, where there is a large Pakistani population.  But because it’s Muslim-on-Muslim crime, not Muslim-on-fill-in-the-blank, it’s not a cable-news case-celebre.  Think about it. What would Fox and the rest of them be doing with this case if the victim was named Sheila Jones instead of Aasiyah Zubair?