Tag Archives: murder

Oklahoma, Where the Lead Comes Sweepin’ Down the Plain

20 Aug

Three responsible gun owners from Oklahoma decided to go on a responsible killing spree, responsibly picking out and murdering a budding Australian baseball prodigy for the “fun of it”.

“He apparently was jogging,” Danny Ford, chief of the Duncan, Oklahoma Police Department, said. “He went by a residence where these three boys were, they picked him as a target, they went out and got in a vehicle and followed him. Came up from behind and basically shot him in the back with a small caliber weapon, then sped away.”

It is important that teenagers have the fundamental and God-given Constitutional human right to own and possess guns so that they could responsibly combat the tyranny of jogging passers-by. People need to be vigilant when minding their own business (something not enumerated in the Constitution and, therefore, not at all a basic human right), and yield at all times to the gun-wielding Constitutional scholar-cum-lunatic who has the fundamental right as a well-regulated militiaman to gun down people at random at any time.

The government goons have now arrested these three brave joggerphile patriots and will put them on trial for exercising their 2nd Amendment right to shoot people.

Remember: an armed society is a polite society. Liberty!

When Abuse Becomes Murder

19 Apr

I can’t wrap my head around a parent doing this to a child: 

The boy was tied to a chair with duct tape, a sock stuffed in his mouth, and he was beaten with a stick or blunt object in the basement of their Guilford Street home, near the Broadway Market, authorities said.

The stepfather was angry because the boy, a fifth-grader at the International Preparatory School on Clinton Street, had fallen behind in his homework, law enforcement officials said.

The Buffalo News’ report reveals that a neighbor encountered the boy literally running for his life, on the street, from his father. The neighbor is wracked with guilt because she intervened and the father caught up with the boy, who was brutally murdered just a few hours later. 

I look forward to Buffalo’s right-wing commentariat blaming the perpetrator’s heritage or religion; he has an Islamic name, so they’ll suggest that it’s Jihadism to blame, and snidely refer to the “religion of peace”.  (Of course, the man’s religion didn’t swing the blunt object that killed Abdifatah Mohamud, and not every Muslim father beats his kids to death or beheads his wife).  Sometimes, people like Ali Mohamed Mohamud are simply monsters, without regard to their faith.

 

 

New York and 1st Degree Murder (UPDATED)

9 Feb
Barbed tape at a prison

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, Ray Walter suggested that I write about why it is that New York’s 1st Degree murder statute doesn’t cover situations such as the Hassan murder.  New York’s Penal Law enumerates 13 special circumstances, any one of which must be present for 1st degree murder to apply. None of them were present here.  So, it gets charged as 2nd Degree.

New York’s criminal statute is based on the Model Penal Code, which was devised  in the hopes that many states would adopt it, leading to a degree of uniformity in state criminal charges across the country. It was most recently updated in 2009.  The New York statute doesn’t track the Code exactly, (using “intentionally” instead of “purposefully”, e.g.).

The state has made the value judgment that murder is very bad indeed, resulting in a sentence of 15-25 years to life, whereas 1st degree murder’s special circumstances render it even worse.  A person convicted of 1st degree murder may be sentenced to life without parole.

Back in the long long ago, there was still a pretense of sending people to jail not just for punitive reasons, but also to rehabilitate them.  Even murderers.  While Muzzammil Hassan may be eligible for parole when he’s in his early 70s, he seems to be beyond rehabilitation and will likely stay in jail for the rest of his life – most importantly because he has no self-awareness of his own responsibility for his actions.

On the other hand, if a young kid commits murder and rehabilitates himself in jail, availing himself of every possible program to better himself, educate himself, learn skills, and be penitent, then the parole board may very well give people like that a second chance.  25 years is a very long time, and people should be paroled on a case-by-case basis.

Rest assured that Mo Hassan isn’t going anywhere, ever.

UPDATE: I wanted to add this in because it occurred to me after posting.  There is a general ideological parallel between people who advocate in favor of a death penalty, but also advocate against hate crime legislation.  The two concepts, when implemented, rely on the same underlying factor – the perpetrator’s state of mind. Any 1L can explain that a criminal act requires a criminal state of mind (mens rea), and the criminal act itself (actus reus).

In Hassan’s case, the actus reus was never in dispute – the entire trial was over his state of mind. New York’s first degree murder statute’s aggravating factors are generally situational – they don’t really differentiate between states of mind or the act of murder as compared with 2nd degree murder – they just acknowledge other circumstances; the victim was a cop, the victim was a criminal witness, it was committed in connection with a robbery or burglary, etc.  The viciousness of Hassan’s crime was a result of his state of mind (a narcissistic & sociopathic abusive spouse), but not a special circumstance.  Compare Hassan and our 1st degree murder statute to oft-controversial hate crime legislation, which specifically treats the perpetrator’s state of mind as a special circumstance.  For instance, Helmut didn’t just kill Johnny randomly – he killed Johnny because Johnny is a Jew, or because Johnny is a homosexual.  Again – these are values that we as a society have codified through legislation passed by people we elect.  I’m in favor of hate crime laws, and against the death penalty; I’d much rather that the worst of the worst rot for decades in a SuperMax facility. But it’s not solely up to me – it’s up to all of us how we want crimes defined & punished.

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

Woe is Mo: #Hassan uses the Chewbacca Defense

2 Feb

Muzzammil Hassan completed his direct testimony yesterday, leading the jury through his version of the events of January and February 2009.

It was largely similar to the previous days of Hassan testimony, whereby he narrated a story for the jury over frequent prosecution objections and stumbling over evidentiary issues.  Hassan needed to tell the jury all about his feelings, at the hands of Aasiya Zubair‘s “bullying” and “controlling” behavior.

Aasiya clearly wanted out of the marriage.  Hassan testified that he felt “blindsided” by service upon him of the divorce papers, together with an order of protection forcing him out of the house.  He testified about feeling embarrassment and shame at earlier restraining orders, feeling humiliated having to visit his kids under court-ordered supervision.  Hassan went to great pains to paint Aasiya as what he termed an “evil dragon” whose mood would swing from sweet to sour like a pendulum.  He testified earnestly to the jury that Aasiya would be nice to him on minute, while behind his back she was meeting with lawyers and plotting to divorce him.

So?

He testified about two lunchtime meetings that he and Aasiya had at the conference room at Bridges during the six days between service of divorce papers and the murder.  At one, Aasiya purportedly offered to drop the divorce if Hassan would agree to budget $10,000 per year for her and the kids to visit Pakistan every year.  Turning to the day of the murder, he testified that they held a volatile meeting at lunchtime where Aasiya demanded that he break off contact with two female friends of his.  He testified that at this point, Aasiya pulled a knife on him.

Hassan had testified about text messages he had sent to one of them several weeks before the murder, where he was telling her that his wife was a “bully” and expressing thanks to this friend for paying attention to him.

So? If his wife was such a bully, and he had a support system built-in by way of psychological counseling and friendships, he didn’t have to kill anybody.  He could have just let the divorce go through and be free of the supposed “dragon”.

He felt very hurt after that meeting, and took a drive to clear his head.  He happened upon the Hamburg Wal*Mart where he coincidentally walked in and happened to unexpectedly go to the hunting knife department and randomly bought two large knives.  He testified that he got one to help a friend “chop wood”, and another for protection from Aasiya.

His testimony was that he was going to meet Aasiya to call the other friend at 6pm.  She was to meet him at the studio.  He waited for her, and she came in and started walking to the conference room, saying they had to make that call.  When Aasiya reached into the pocket from where she had previously pulled a knife, Hassan freaked out and murdered her with multiple stab wounds and a beheading.

He began breaking down on the stand, explaining that he was relieved that he had slain the “evil dragon”, that the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders, and that his kids would not have to live with a monster anymore.

The problem for Mo Hassan is that the objective evidence did not corroborate his story. He parked in an unusual spot in an empty parking lot.  He parked out of sight, where his wife wouldn’t see him.  The text messages between them showed that she was going to the studio to drop clothes into his car.  She had the kids wait in the car. He texted her that he had left the studio – that she should put the clothes in the office.  But he waited in the office for her.  She didn’t know he was there.  It was a darkened studio, where he lay in wait for his wife, whom he had just told that he was not there.  It took 37 seconds from the time she opened the door until her head was severed from her body.  He had $4900 on him.  He had used $100 to buy the knives, he gave the rest to his eldest son, who was waiting outside for his murdered stepmother.

This wasn’t the sudden, unplanned, unexpected act of a man who snapped.  This wasn’t a battered husband who killed her before she killed him.  This was a methodically pre-planned execution.

If he wanted out of the relationship, he had it.  She had filed for divorce.  The notion that he felt trapped in an abusive relationship is nonsense.  In cases of battered spouse syndrome, the abuser maintains control over the other person in the relationship – divorce is out of the question, as it would break that control.  There was only one person in the relationship of Aasiya Zubair and Muzzammil Hassan who didn’t want a divorce to take place, and that person is the defendant.

It’s interesting that the only two emotions Hassan has displayed during this trial have been anger and, only yesterday, crying.  I’m sure he feels sadness that he’ll never be a free man again, that he will not be a dad to his kids, that he’s in this situation; I’m sure those were tears of relief at having finally told his story.  Not once, however, did he express an iota of remorse for having murdered his wife so violently.  He didn’t cry for leaving his kids without their mother.  He didn’t cry for having committed a needless homicide.  He didn’t cry for having murdered this woman whom he supposedly loved so much he went out of his way to stop the divorce.  It doesn’t add up.  It’s the Chewbacca defense in real life.

And so he ended his testimony.  Nothing was his fault.  It was all Aasiya’s fault.  He was the loving husband, going to counseling, trying to save his marriage.  His wife was a demanding bitch who said mean things to him, so he snapped. He destroyed her body, now he concluded about four days’ worth of destroying her reputation. His domination is complete. Cry, Mo, cry.

Today, the prosecution commences its cross-examination of the defendant.  Hopefully, ADA Colleen Curtin Gable will conduct it, as it would be interesting to see Hassan’s demeanor under tough questioning from a strong, intelligent, female in a dominant role at this stage in the trial.  I don’t think he’ll fare well.

(Report based on personal observation of the trial, along with following the #Hassan hashtag and the Buffalo News’ live blog).

The Mo Show: Day Seven

28 Jan

Yesterday, Mo Hassan took the stand to try and get over 1,000 pieces of paper admitted into evidence, and to tell the jury his life story. As part of his life story, he went to great pains to justify having murdered his wife.

After all, she wanted a boat and they argued about it.
After all, she wanted to fly to Pakistan and they argued about it.
After all, she wanted a horse and they argued about it.

It got so bad, Hassan testified, that he sought out the help of a self-help author who wrote a book about “Verbally Abusive Relationships”. Of course, there was little to no corroboration of the things about which Hassan was testifying. By contrast, Hassan’s own physical and psychological abuse towards his murdered wife have been recounted by several witnesses and corroborating evidence.

What Hassan spent the entire day doing has been to establish grounds for divorce. He has not, however, established a battered spouse/self defense justification for homicide. He hasn’t established that his only way out of his supposed torment was to behead the mother of his youngest children.

For Hassan’s strategy for acquittal to succeed, he has to introduce expert evidence that he has been diagnosed with battered spouse syndrome. No such evidence exist, no expert is willing to testify for him, and he is foreclosed from subpoenaing an expert to do so.

He’d never succeed.  There’s no evidence of multiple physical beatings by Aasiya, there’s no helplessness on the part of this man, no cycle of violence that Aasiya caused.  The only psychological exercise at play is Mo Hassan projecting his own behavior onto his murder victim.

But what’s telling is his demeanor. Battered spouses feel terrible remorse for what they’ve done – the abuse led them to a complete void of self-assurance that they think the only way to stop the beatings is to kill their assailant.

If Aasiya was beating Hassan, and he sees himself as a battered spouse, how precisely does he explain the fact that it was she who was trying so desperately to escape their marriage?  He had his out – his escape was that she was leaving him.

There is, therefore, an utter failure of logic in this defense.

(Information thanks to the Buffalo News live blog, linked to above, and the #Hassan Twitter feed).

Hassan Tuesday: What Was & Wasn’t Important

26 Jan

Yesterday, the Hassan jury watched surveillance video showing Muzzammil Hassan murdering his wife.  And I use that word specifically – he was laying in wait, in the dark, and he surprised his unarmed wife and brutally murdered her.

Most media are all over the whole “Mo Hassan is going to call the judge as a witness!” story, but there’s no there there.  Hassan isn’t going to call the judge, and the judge isn’t going to “testify” as a witness.  There’s no fact relevant to the murder of Aasiya Hassan that the judge has first-hand knowledge of – he is the impartial judge presiding over a trial. That wasn’t important, except to show that Hassan is a crazy person.  (And I don’t mean “crazy” as in he’s not competent to stand trial; I mean he’s a controlling, narcissistic psychopath).

The two big revelations that came out yesterday were that Hassan made a sort of life-to-do list as he sat at the Orchard Park police station after confessing there to the killing.  One police witness was used largely to just authenticate the surveillance video for evidentiary purposes, yet Hassan cross-examined him as if he was somehow critical to his defense.  Hassan would ask wildly objectionable questions that did little more than introduce inadmissible evidence in front of the jury. ADA Colleen Curtin Gable objected repeatedly to what she called Hassan’s “backdoor hearsay upon backdoor hearsay”.  Questions such as, “did you know that Aasiya killed her brother” – an irrelevant, untrue, wild accusation asked of a cop in the presence of a jury is so patently improper that a lawyer who tried to pull such a stunt might likely be sanctioned – especially after 40+ improper, similar questions had been posed.

One officer testified that in performing their search of Aasiya’s minivan they found an M&T envelope containing forty-nine $100 bills.  You may recall that last week, Hassan’s eldest son, Michael, testified that as the kids waited nervously for Aasiya to run in to Bridges – where she met her death – Mo Hassan drove up in his Benz out of nowhere and handed him an envelope filled with cash.  Later that day, a Wal*Mart employee from Hamburg testified that Hassan had purchased and tested the knives he used to murder his wife just hours before, with a $100 bill.

So, Hassan made a $5,000 withdrawal from M&T, used $100 to buy the murder weapons, and gave the rest to his kids.  Hey, I just murdered your mom.  Here’s $4,900.  Have a nice day!  That connection hasn’t yet been made in court unless the prosecution calls the M&T teller who handled the transaction, otherwise it’ll likely be argued in summation.

Earlier in the day, Hassan demanded that the prosecution turn over psychological profiles of him drawn up by a state’s expert.  DA Gable argued that the material in no way helped Hassan’s case, but the judge ordered the discovery to go forward.  The focus seems to be on evidence that the kids saw Aasiya Zubair strike Mo Hassan – but only on those occasions when he sat on her in order to subdue her or to cause a spontaneous abortion.

In speaking with local attorney Roy Mura via Twitter yesterday, he inquired into Hassan’s demeanor in court – after all, people who are true battered spouses who murder their abusers are usually quite remorseful.  Hassan?  His massive ego and inflated sense of self-importance and worth would never let him mourn another.  He is cocky in court – the smartest guy in the room, he imagines.  He is proud of his act, and he’s proud of what he’s doing to this trial – making a mockery of the process, running his own defense, further maligning his victim’s reputation – the abuse continues.

As he waited to be transferred to the Erie County Holding Center the night of the murder, he asked the police to go to the hotel where he had been staying to retrieve his C-PAP anti-sleep-apnea machine.  He said he wouldn’t be able to sleep that night without it.

After murdering his wife in cold blood because she had the nerve to try and escape his control and that evil, abusive relationship, he was worried that his snoring would interrupt his slumber.

(Material gathered through personal observation and via the #Hassan thread on Twitter).

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?