Tag Archives: Domestic Violence

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.

Woe is Mo: #Hassan Trial Day 9

1 Feb

Poor Mo.

When Mo beat Aasiya, she called the cops or child protective services. She’d get restraining orders. He said she used this as “intimidation tools” to get her way. She would yell at him, and he’d become “like a turtle”, and retreat into his “shell”.

Poor Mo.

When Aasiya tried to escape with the kids to the airport, the babysitter driving them testified that Mo tried to run them off the road. The babysitter has no reason to lie. Mo says he was just innocently chasing after them in his car and never left his lane. He got a ticket.

Poor Mo.

Aasiya went to the hospital in 2007 to seek treatment for injuries resulting from one of Mo’s beatings. He introduced evidence to prove that he was in Dubai at the time of her hospital visit. He even wanted to show some snapshots to the jury. The medical record showed that Aasiya told the hospital that she had suffered the beatings “20 to 25 days ago”. Mo didn’t have an answer for that.

Poor Mo.

Mo went abroad for a month. He went to Mecca to pray to God for guidance in how to deal with his battered wife’s anger. He went to Pakistan and bought lots of gifts. What a good dad! What a good husband! Yet when he returned to the US, he was “greeted” with a new restraining order. He tried to commit suicide, but it didn’t work. He felt humiliated during his supervised visits with his kids.

Poor Mo.

It cost him $20,000 to “clean up that mess” – meaning the restraining order, not the blood from when he stabbed and beheaded his wife.

Poor Mo.

Mo started keeping a journal in 2006. He began keeping it “to get in touch with [his] own reality as to what was happening to [him],” and to “help Aasiya break through her denial of the abuse”. He likened Aasiya to a “dragon” who lashes out in private while maintaining a cool public persona. He also tried to introduce into evidence a cumulative & redundant list of everything he had testified to over the past several days. He drew a diagram of a pendulum to illustrate Aasiya’s moods swinging. The “evil dragon” was Mo’s second zoological analogy of the day.

Poor Mo.

After the jury was excused, Judge Franczyk ruled on several of Hassan’s requests for subpoenas, and will allow several fact witnesses and one psychiatrist who examined Hassan. A request to re-call Hassan’s kids was taken under advisement.

Poor Mo.

The trial that has devolved into an episode of Dr. Phil, right down to the psychobabble, continues today. On Friday, Hassan had briefly called a witness to testify on his behalf. She was called as a character witness, having known Hassan while they attended college in Rochester together. Basically, he asked her to confirm for the jury that Hassan wasn’t a homicidal, controlling, spouse-battering maniac back in college. The problem for Hassan is that the prosecution cannot introduce character evidence as part of their case-in-chief, but a defendant can. Once the defendant does so, it opens the door for the prosecution to introduce their own evidence of Hassan’s bad character and reputation.

And don’t forget – the prosecution gets to cross-examine Hassan once he’s done telling Oprah the jury how badly he felt when Aasiya was angry at him.

A lot of people have made the supposition that all of this is cultural, pointing mainly to the act of beheading as proof of this theory.  The problem is that traditionally, Muslim societies like Pakistan are largely patriarchal.  Are we meant to believe that a Pakistani male would justify his supposed “honor killing” by whining about how badly he felt when his wife was mean to him?  Would he turn his trial for his “honor killing” into an episode of Dr. Oz or Dr. Phil or Dr. Drew or Oprah?  No, his testimony has served to underscore the fact that the murder of Aasiya Zubair was the act of an enraged maniac who was angry that he was losing his Svengali-like hold over his battered wife.  This wasn’t a Pakistani honor killing, it was a murder based on rage.  The text messages entered into evidence last week revealed that Hassan didn’t just wait patiently and calmly in a darkened studio to murder his wife, but that  he lured her back into the studio so he could commit the act.  His last text message to her was basically, “you made me do it, bitch!”

Cold-blooded, pre-meditated murder.  The battered spouse syndrome defense is a legal expansion of the self-defense justification for homicide; the battered spouse is so psychologically helpless and wounded that she feels constantly threatened with systematic and severe physical violence, so she pre-emptively kills her habitual attacker to save her own life.  Hassan’s supposed justification?  His wife raised her voice at him sometimes. So he cut off her head.

As a domestic violence expert told YNN,

Sisti believes Hassan may be making the claim simply to manipulate the jury into believing he was justified in killing his wife — a claim that doesn’t hold much water with Sisti.

“That’s classic sociopath,” Sisti said. “Someone else is causing me to do this I will not take responsibility for my own behavior. If he’s experiencing the relationship as he’s describing it, why not leave the relationship? Why kill someone?”

Again – if he felt so victimized in this relationship, he had the perfect way out;  Aasiya had filed for divorce.

(Story culled from the Buffalo News live blog and the #Hassan Twitter hashtag, which also explains the title of this post. I have included the hashtag in the title of the post so that people following the trial on Twitter can see this post. Please don’t complain to me about it.)

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?

Paterson: Implicated

26 Mar
New York State Governor David Paterson opening...
Image via Wikipedia

Paterson is in bigger trouble, and deeper in the scandal involving his aide’s alleged battery of his girlfriend, than earlier thought.

Gov. David A. Paterson personally helped draft a statement last month that he hoped would be endorsed by a woman involved in a domestic dispute with one of his top aides, proposing language asserting that there had been no violence in the encounter, according to three people with knowledge of the governor’s role.

This is just insane.