Tag Archives: Bridges TV

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

Hassan: Closing Arguments & Likely Verdict Today

7 Feb

All of the evidence is before the jury.  Today, they will hear the prosecution’s summation, and they will hear Muzzammil Hassan ramble on for two hours about what a bitch Aasiya was, and how that is a justification for homicide.

When closing arguments are complete, the judge will instruct the jury on the applicable law, and send them back to deliberate.  The statute at issue:

§ 125.25 Murder in the second degree.
    A person is guilty of murder in the second degree when:
    1.  With  intent  to  cause the death of another person, he causes the
  death of  such  person  or  of  a  third  person...

Committed the homicide, with intent to do so. My prediction is that they’ll have the case in time for lunch.  They will have ordered in the morning.  The catering will be paid for by the State of New York.  They will take a quick, initial vote in the jury room, and it will be a unanimous 12-0 for conviction on second degree murder. They’ll sit over their lunch and take advantage of their first permitted opportunity to discuss what they’ve just witnessed over the last couple of weeks, but I’d be shocked if their deliberations took more than an hour.

Despite a glimpse into the narcissistic mind of an abusive, homicidal sociopath, Hassan has utterly failed to even remotely establish that he was justified in killing his wife in self-defense. The battered spouse syndrome defense is predicated upon the general self-defense justification, and it doesn’t come close to being applicable here. The record is replete with dates on which, and ways in which, Hassan rained physical abuse on his wife. There is ample testimony from multiple witnesses about how Hassan psychologically and physically dominated his wife, first in private, but also in public.

He said he was the battered spouse – that those who refused to believe his lie were merely buying into a societal “paradigm” where the man is always the abuser. He said she would berate him, that she would criticize him, that she would call him names, that she would threaten him, that she would humiliate him.  Yet he never went to the police to complain about threats. He never told his doctor about injuries he suffered in “falls” that were inconsistent with injuries from “falls”. He would control her communications, her access to her family, her access to the children.  He was a control-freak.  He was a charming and savvy businessman who regularly terrorized his wife.

I read through Aasiya’s divorce affidavit again last week.  It is her ultimate cry for help.  It was her only chance to get away from this monster. The doctors who testified last week confirmed that abusers typically lash out violently when their victims take affirmative steps to get away. Aasiya’s days were numbered the second Hassan was served with those papers.  It represents the heart of the prosecution’s case, full of dates and facts, full of information that damns the defendant.

Then I read through those letters (first, second)  that Epstein’s Hassan’s “mother” allegedly wrote to the Buffalo News’ Sandra Tan in an effort to clear her boys’ name and sully Aasiya’s.  He said on the stand that she dictated it to him.  I wonder why his mother uses words like “paradigm” and describes Aasiya as a “dragon”. Sounds eerily like Hassan’s own words. Because he wrote it, and it represents the heart of Hassan’s defense. It is a factually empty, weak argument filled with self-importance and amateurish psychobabble, just like its author.

What did he do when he got the divorce papers? He withdrew $90,000 from a joint account in an effort to hide it from her. He went to their house and angrily broke a window. He tried to re-establish contact with her, with his kids. He pulled her into a couple of interminable meetings at the Bridges studios. He tried to bully her into dropping the divorce.

If she was the abuser, and he was the victim – as is his claim – why not sign off on the divorce and be done?

If he was so afraid of Aasiya, especially when she supposedly pulled a knife on him on the day of her murder, why didn’t he go to the police? Why not stop off at the OP police station, which was on the way to the Wal*Mart where he bought the knives?  Why did he text her that he wasn’t at the studio, then drive to that studio? Why would he park in an irregular spot, out of sight? Why would he wait for her inside the corridor of a darkened Bridges TV studio, if he was so afraid of her? Why would he go to the one place he knew she would be – a place he knew she thought he wasn’t at. As he lay in wait for her, armed with two unsheathed hunting knives, he was going to commit one final act of physical domination over his wife.  He had the whole crime mapped out from the moment he withdrew $5,000 from M&T.

This trial that he’s put on, over his own lawyers’ objections, was one final act of psychological domination. He had broken her body – now he tried to break her soul, her memory, her reputation.

And Hassan’s isolation as a human being is so palpably complete. No one would testify voluntarily for him. No one wanted to testify as a paid expert for him. Every witness he called ended up doing him infinitely more harm than good.  Even Dr. Myrow, the family therapist, whom Hassan called on Friday, confirmed that he had counseled Aasiya to seek out the help of Haven House, that she had told him in confidence about years of physical abuse from her husband.

This was not the act of a battered husband brought to the brink by a verbally abusive wife.  This was a premeditated intentional murder plotted out to teach Aasiya a lesson about daring to leave him. About daring to expose him.

Hopefully, this trial, and Hassan’s own depraved behavior, will serve to shine a brighter light on domestic violence.  Will a beaten spouse recognize Hassan in her own husband? If so, I hope it prompts them to get help and seek protection.

Follow tomorrow at the Buffalo News liveblog, or using the #Hassan search on Twitter.

My past articles on the Hassan Trial:

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

Mo Outsmarted

4 Feb

Muzzammil Hassan is raising a psychiatric self-defense justification, claiming that he stabbed his wife 40+ times and then cut off & kicked her head because she called him names and argued with him. In order to succeed on such a “battered spouse” justification defense, Hassan has to introduce expert psychiatric testimony to establish that, in fact, he was a battered spouse, and that he murdered his abuser out of self-preservation.

But no one wanted to testify for him.

So, Hassan took a massive gamble and called two doctors to the stand yesterday, Dr. Thomas Dilamarter and Dr. Gary Horwitz.  The former was Aasiya Zubair’s and Mo’s primary care physician, and the latter was the prosecution’s psychiatric expert.  Rounding out the day’s testimony was a former Bridges TV secretary.  Each one of these witnesses did tremendous harm to Hassan’s defense.

Hassan’s aim in calling Dilamarter was to try and establish that the only evidence in the medical record of physical abuse against Aasiya was “her word”.  Hassan has a big issue with never having gotten a chance to tell his side of the story.

The problem for Hassan is that there is a doctor-patient privilege, and the only person in whom Aasiya could confide without Hassan finding out were medical or legal professionals.  The further problem came during this exchange:

Dilamarter asked to review medical progress not from a case in which he personally examined Aasiya for injuries related to domestic abuse. Hassan asks Dilamarter if he ever tried to get Hassan’s side of the story. Dilamarter responds that he saw Hassan the next day.

“You admitted to me that you hurt her,” he says.

“I did not,” Hassan angrily replies.

Dilamarter says Hassan directly admitted to him that he struck his wife and was ashamed of his behavior.

By 2007, Dilamarter was counseling Aasiya to get out of her “hostile environment”.  Hassan tried to start in with his psychobabble and asked whether Aasiya could have sought counseling, to which Dr. Dilamarter replied,

I think she’d had enough of counseling…I think she’d been beaten up enough and counseling wasn’t doing any good.

He also testified that Aasiya had presented before 2006 with injuries that were consistent with domestic violence, but which she attributed to falls.  Yet Aasiya had no neurological issue that would have caused frequent falls. By contrast, Muzzammil Hassan never presented with any traumatic physical injuries that might have been attributable to domestic violence.

Ouch.  And that’s Hassan’s own witness.

He then called Kristina Telesco, a former Bridges secretary.  When he said “hi” to her, she refused to answer him.  Twice. This defense witness testified that Aasiya was very “outgoing, friendly, and quiet”, but that Hassan was “controlling and demanding”.  So much so that Aasiya’s behavior would change when he was around.

So, Hassan was 0:2 with his witnesses yesterday.  The effect was so bad that the judge asked Hassan whether he was sure he wanted to keep going down this road.

Of course he did!  So, he called the prosecution’s expert psychiatrist, Dr. Horwitz.

Horwitz was on the stand for an inordinately long period of time, and the way in which he obliterated Hassan was largely ironic.  You see, Hassan started asking questions of the doctor to find out what the general personality traits are of abusers.  Horwitz would answer, and Hassan would feel confident that he had ticked off another box showing that Aasiya was the aggressor in their relationship.  But in fact all of Horwitz’s testimony was referring to Hassan as the controlling abuser.  Hassan didn’t even seem to realize what was going on.

Horwitz said that the abuser is controlling, that he would use put-downs, insults, be hyper-critical, keep the abused away from family, that the abuser would be a master manipulator, a great liar.  The victim often believes the abuser will reform, and stays in the relationship for a variety of reasons.  To the outside world, the abuser could seem quite charming, but in private be quite evil.

There was some confusion during the testimony, as Hassan was talking about the victim, and Horwitz was talking about the abuser.  Horwitz testified that the victim is in greatest physical danger when she finally tries to end the relationship.  In cases where the abuser lashes out and murders the victim, the result is overkill – stabbing 40+ times when two would have gotten the job done. The abuser will then typically turn himself in.

Every word of Horwitz’s testimony sank Hassan’s case deeper and deeper, and the irony was not lost on anyone in the courtroom.  In fact, it was chilling to watch the doctor spell out Hassan’s own personality in such minute detail at Hassan’s own urging.

The trial resumes today at 12:15, and the jury should have the case by Monday.

(Information via the #Hassan Twitter search, the Buffalo News liveblog, and the WIVB liveblog.

Hey, Mo! Where You Goin’ With Those Knives in Your Hands?

3 Feb

Muzzammil Hassan spent 3 1/2 days on the witness stand, giving a long, rambling “direct” examination in a narrative manner.

Assistant District Attorney Colleen Curtin Gable began her cross-examination by pointing out that only a miniscule couple of seconds of his testimony were devoted to the actual murder of his wife.

Prosecutor Collen Curtin Gable opened her cross examination of Hassan by noting that in three-and-a-half days of testimony, Hassan spent about “two seconds” on the actual murder.

“Let’s start with Feb. 12, 2009,” Curtin Gable then asked. “You killed your wife, correct?”

“Yes,” Hassan responded.

Prosecutor Collen Curtin Gable opened her cross examination of Hassan by noting that in three-and-a-half days of testimony, Hassan spent about “two seconds” on the actual murder…

…You described killing your wife in just two words, ‘things happened,’ correct?…

…I want to focus on the attack because that’s what you didn’t do yesterday…

Hassan’s story is that he blacked out during the actual attack – that he has no recollection of it because he felt as if he had stepped out of his body and was watching himself commit the crime. Curtin Gable got Hassan to admit he thought Aasiya Zubair was a threat to him, then asked, “was she still a threat after the 20th stab wound?” Hassan had two brand-new knives in his pockets as he waited for his wife in the darkened Bridges studio. He attacked her within 5 seconds of her entering the building. He was asked whether he kicked his wife’s head after he severed it from her body, and replied that he thought it had just slid from the blood, but acknowledged he caused it to move because he was defending himself. “You had to defend yourself when you were cutting off her head?”

Hassan took off a bloody shirt and left the knives. Curtin Gable asked him whether it was because he didn’t want to be caught – he said he left one of two shirts because it was a cold day that day, but he got “hot” after committing his crime.

He got in his car, and thought over giving his kids that $5,000 he had withdrawn earlier that day. He was reluctant because of an order of protection against him contacting them. Curtin Gable was incredulous, “OK, you just killed your wife, and you want the jury to believe you’re worried at that time about a protection order?” and, “you just happened to have $4900 on you after the murder?”

Turning to the divorce, Hassan said he never read the papers carefully and that he had gone to the bank that day to move $90,000 from an M&T account to a different bank ostensibly to protect his kids’ college fund. He was expressly forbidden by the divorce papers to do that. Hassan argued that he didn’t take the divorce seriously, that he just thought Aasiya was playing games. The following day, Hassan again tried to text his kids, then drove to the house, and finding it locked, he broke a window. Hassan continued texting his wife and kids, trying to get them to talk with him, and Aasiya basically responded that there was nothing left to talk about. He thought he could talk his way out of the divorce – that he could talk his way out of being exposed as an abusive husband.

Turning to the meeting on the day of the murder in the conference room at Bridges, Hassan had claimed on direct that Aasiya pulled a knife on him. Yet he didn’t scream out, he didn’t leave the room. When Aasiya left, he didn’t “drive around” – he drove directly to Wal*Mart in Hamburg, passing the Orchard Park Police Department on the way, and bought two large hunting knives. He acknowledged not complaining to the police because he thought they wouldn’t listen to him. Curtin Gable then recounted several incidents involving the police that had happened previously, and got Hassan to admit that he could have given the police his side of the story, but didn’t. He said they wouldn’t listen. She brought out several times that they did listen. He also admitted that Aasiya sent Hassan a friendly text message just moments after she supposedly pulled a knife on him.

He then returned to Bridges after buying the knives. He said he got one for protection, and the other? He was going to gift-wrap it for a friend at the office. Yet he used both knives in the attack.

Curtin Gable then got Hassan to admit that as he was texting his wife just moments before the attack, he never told her he was in the Bridges studio – where he knew she was headed. He left the lights off because he didn’t want her to come in – yet the text messages reveal she told him she was going to come inside to drop clothes off. After murdering Aasiya, Hassan texted someone, asking them to call his father, “urgent”.

Curtin Gable asked, “after Wal*Mart, you went to the one place you knew your wife would be, armed with two knives?” Hassan is huge compared to Aasiya, and Curtin Gable got him to admit that if he felt threatened, he could have just pushed his wife. From the attack, Hassan didn’t have a scratch on him.

After the lunch break, Curtin Gable asked Hassan specific questions about a “Memorandum of Understanding” between the couple, one section of which was about “Mo’s Basic Needs”. The document spelled out 13 behaviors Aasiya was not to engage in. Hassan’s only obligation under the contract was to determine when Aasiya had violated it. None of the enumerated, specific behaviors involved physical acts Aasiya should stop committing; instead, it was all about her basically not being bitchy to him when they argued. Seriously.

Curtin Gable then spelled out all of the times that Aasiya went to the police to complain about Hassan’s physical mistreatment of her, many of which took place while he was out of the country so he couldn’t talk her out of it. Photos of a beaten Aasiya from 2006 were introduced into evidence, showing a black eye and bruising on her arm and calf. There is not one shred of corroborating evidence to establish that Aasiya was ever physical with Hassan, yet plenty vice-versa.

He was cross-examined on two letters that Hassan wrote & sent, ostensibly on behalf of his mother, who doesn’t speak English. One was to Sandra Tan of the Buffalo News, and the other was to Tom Bauerle. He admitted sending them both, and admitted that he never wrote in the letters that it was in his handwriting, dictated by his mother. Both letters accused Aasiya of being abusive to Hassan. Yet the letter to Tom Bauerle was never addressed to him. Instead, it was sent to his mother in Texas. Upon receiving it, they were shocked, and turned it over to the DA.

Curtin Gable got Hassan to admit that he readily called people names and demeaned them when he was angry. I didn’t feel that this line of questioning was particularly effective, but she got Hassan to admit he called ADA Gable a “retard”, his dead wife a “Darth Vader” and an “evil dragon”, that the judge ran a “kangaroo court”, and DA Sedita was “Dumbo”. He later explained it away on re-direct, explaining he felt he was being treated unfairly, and that the male-as-abuser “paradigm” was taking hold in the case.

As she concluded, Curtin Gable got Hassan to admit that he felt not remorse, but relief, upon committing his crime. He felt that by beheading his wife he had inexplicably “broken a cycle of abuse” for his children. He thought that God had given him the “strength” to commit his crime, and that he was helped by “angels”. Curtin Gable: “Do you think that angels helped you stab your wife 41 times? Did angels help you behead her?

To conclude, Curtin Gable got Hassan to admit that he thought the following statements were true:

(a) that abusers are excellent manipulators;

(b) that abusers always blame the victim; and

(c) that what abusers fear most is exposure.

Hassan’s redirect narrative followed the judge’s admonition to stay “laser-like” within the scope of the cross. Most of his information was old news, however.

During a very brief re-cross examination, Curtin Gable got Hassan to admit that there is surveillance video of the murder itself because if he turned it off, an alarm would sound. If that alarm had sounded, Aasiya would have known he was there – he didn’t know how to turn off that alarm.

Afterwards, Hassan called his oldest daughter and tried to examine her, but it didn’t go anywhere. Sonia Hassan was clearly not there to help her father, never looking at him, and referring to him as the “defendant”. From the News’ blog:

Hassan has asked his daughter to explain a hand-written letter she wrote on Jan. 3, 2008.

His daughter, Sonia Hassan, started her explanation by saying that there was a child protection services investigation going on at the time she wrote it.

“Aasiya wanted, for some reason, for you to come back to the house,” Sonia testified. “So I was asked to write this letter because I had been previously blamed for most of the reasons why CPS was involved.”

She added that she could also testify “that I did not believe in any of the sentences I wrote.”

The letter, she said, stated that she didn’t believe her father was a threat.

Sonia Hassan said she did not recall who asked her to write the letter and that it was possible it was Hassan who told her to write the letter.

That didn’t go well. Cross-examining his kids was the genesis of Hassan’s decision to represent himself, but when the time came to do it, it went nowhere. He won’t be calling his son.

Hassan’s examination is complete. He is still presenting his case today in Erie County Court. It is anticipated that the jury may have the case by Friday, depending on the scheduling of certain witnesses.

But the prosecution did what it needed to do. It was short & sweet, didn’t waste the jury’s time like Hassan has, and pointed out specific inconsistencies and other things in Hassan’s story that make zero sense. They have successfully laid the foundation for an argument to the jury that Hassan wasn’t a battered spouse who snapped, killing his abuser in anticipatory self-defense, but that he had methodically planned to murder his wife out of rage – rage that she was escaping his evil clutches. This is classic projection – the only “evil dragon” here is the master manipulator, Muzzammil Hassan.

(Report based on personal observation, together with the #Hassan Twitter search and the Buffalo News’ Live Blog).

The Mo Show: People Rest, Defense Fumfers

27 Jan

Yesterday’s witnesses at the murder trial of Muzzammil Hassan introduced technical DNA evidence regarding the crime scene and the murder weapons.  They came in quick succession, culminating early in the afternoon with DA Colleen Curtin Gable establishing that Hassan literally had blood on his hands when taken into custody.  At that point, the People rested their case, having established that Hassan had committed an intentional and premeditated homicide.

A witness from Sprint/Nextel authenticated several text messages harvested from Hassan’s and Aasiya Zubair’s cell phones.  The texts were written after Hassan had been served with divorce papers and a restraining order, as he was staying in a nearby hotel.  He was downright hounding his estranged wife to call him “just for two minutes” so that he wouldn’t “toss and turn” all night.  He wanted to get one controlling word in for the night, and he texted her repeatedly every two minutes before she told him to stop, what with the TRO and all. The last batch of texts were exchanged literally moments before the murder, as Aasiya asked that Hassan place her car keys in his desk at the studio for her to pick up, and they said “sorry” to each other for something that happened earlier in the day about some lunch plans.

From Aasiya: Sorry for lunch!

From defendant: Sorry for hurting you

From Aasiya: I am sorry too

Next message at 5:34 p.m.

From defendant: I have returned in all sincerity, honesty and humility.

Less than a minute

From defendant: I cannot carry on without you and family

At 5:38

From defendant: I haven’t done anything to hurt you since Sunday when I learned my mistake.

The last message between the two was sent at 5:42 pm. February 12, 2009

From defendant: I am a good man, Aasiya, a humble and decent man. I made some mistakes. Please don’t punish me so hard. God likes forgiveness.

When the prosecution rested its case, Judge Franczyk had to remind Hassan  to make a customary defense motion to dismiss the case for insufficient evidence of the crime(s) charged. He made it, it was denied, and Hassan was prompted to call his first witness.

Except he didn’t have any lined up.  For him to successfully establish that he was a “battered spouse” who committed a homicide as part of a generalized self-defense, he will need to introduce expert psychological testimony to establish that fact.  The problem for Hassan is that none of the people who evaluated him are willing to testify for him – one of them went so far as to notify Judge Franczyk of that fact.  The further problem for Hassan is that he cant subpoena expert opinion witnesses to testify against their will.

Hassan gave a sort of “we’ll see” answer to that question, and proceeded to ask the judge for a do-over opening statement.  No dice – denied.  He then asked to re-call his children to the stand.  The judge took that under advisement, but wanted to know what he intended to ask the kids.  Hassan also wanted to introduce piles of documentary evidence, including Aasiya’s medical records, showing that he had beat her.  No one knows where he’s going with that.

Remember: Hassan is pro se and judges generally give pro se litigants extra evidentiary and procedural latitude in criminal cases.

Seeing that Hassan was unprepared for trial that day, the judge released the jury for the day. At 10 am today, trial resumes and it promises to be the “Mo Show” circus from here on out.  It’s very likely that Hassan will testify today on his own behalf – he can’t forego his last opportunity to victimize his wife.

He clearly gets off on his own arrogance and hubris.  The defendant very obviously believes that he’s the smartest guy in that room – that he’s better than everyone, the lawyers, the judge, the jury – everyone. His charm is so contrived and fleeting, the kind of guy who hobnobs with important people, reveling in his community status as the co-owner of a groundbreaking television production company, then comes home and terrorizes his third abused wife.  His personality comes out so clearly that I’m absolutely positive that the jury – which yesterday finally started giggling during his repeatedly objected-to attempts to cross-examine witnesses – can see that he’s a monster.

Trial resumes today at 10am.  Many of you have asked how you can get in to watch.  25 Delaware Avenue, 4th Floor, Part 25.  Seating is excruciatingly limited, so either come early or be prepared for a brief wait – the deputy outside the door will control the crowd and let you in when a seat becomes available.  This is our legal system at work, despite a madman’s efforts to subvert it.

(Some material from personal observation, most from the #Hassan thread on Twitter)

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?