Tag Archives: trial

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).

The Takeaway of the Day

25 Jan

Mo Hassan is a sick fuck.

Yesterday, I spent my lunch hour watching Mo Hassan conduct his first-ever cross-examination of a witness in his own murder trial.  Earlier in the day, Hassan and Jeremy Schwartz, his attorney, renewed their motions to relieve Schwartz of his duties.  Monday morning, however, Judge Franczyk reluctantly granted the motion.  Schwartz would continue to sit in the courtroom and act as a silent advisor to Hassan, but the defendant himself would conduct his own defense.

When I attended law school, Colin Ferguson shot up an LIRR train at the peak of rush hour, and he was a madman who insisted on representing himself – right down to referring to himself in the 3rd person.  We had the same thing yesterday, as Hassan cross-examined witness after witness.

His cross?  He scored a point or two here and there, but most of it was laden with rookie mistakes, argument, redundancy, irrelevance, and hubris.  Hassan thinks he’s the smartest guy in that room, and you get the sense from watching him that he thinks he has that courtroom wrapped around his finger.

But the big takeaway?  Mo Hassan is one sick fuck.

Forget for a moment that he’s an admitted wife-beheader.  Not alleged – he admitted it.  The only issue in this case is Hassan’s state of mind.  The prosecution has presented witnesses and evidence to conclusively establish that the crime was well-planned and methodically premeditated. The only chance Hassan might have to get away with a temporary insanity defense would involve him sitting at the defense table in complete silence during the entire trial.

Instead, Hassan has fired his lawyer and taken up his own defense.  These events have taken place outside the jury’s presence.  One minute Hassan’s lawyer is doing all the talking, the next minute Hassan is.  As he cross-examined a former colleage from Bridges TV, Hassan was literally surrounded by about a half-dozen Sheriff’s deputies. What does that convey to a jury?

At one point during his relatively clumsy, hearsay-laden, largely irrelevant cross-examination, the DA objected.  This prompted a response from Hassan, head down towards the table and microphone, “calm down”.  The DA blew a gasket, and rightfully so. Hassan thought he was being cute, but by mildly overreacting, the DA illustrated that moment for the jury in a process that is tightly stage-managed through legal evidence and procedure.

Occasionally when Hassan would hit a brick wall of objections, he’d solicit advice from a silent Jeremy Schwartz.  Hassan would re-ask the question in a non-objectionable way.

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At one point in the afternoon, there was some argument concerning the introduction of photographs of Aasiya Zubair’s body at the crime scene.  Hassan argued that the photos were too gory and prejudicial, but had no probative value since he had already confessed to the homicide. In the end, the judge ordered that the actual wound of the beheading be blacked out.

Among other things, when a judge is faced with a pro-se criminal defendant, he has to bend over backwards to ensure that the defendant’s lack of procedural knowledge doesn’t get in the way of him getting a fair trial. Judge Franczyk was exceedingly professional and fair.

The process was fascinating to watch.  The gallery is packed with students, looky-loos, and reporters crazily Tweeting from the back row. Hassan’s trial has become a veritable freakshow, but in the end the process exists to seek and obtain justice for Aasiya Zubair.

(Thanks to Brad Riter and Shredd & Ragan for the airtime today.  Thanks to Steve Cichon, Laura Gray, Lorey Schultz, Pete Gallivan, and Marissa Bailey, and the Buffalo News for live-Tweeting/blogging the proceedings.  One of you guys has to ask Schwartz if he’s getting paid to sit there like Ollie North’s potted plant).

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?

A Bearded Jim Jones

19 Nov

Via Andrew Sullivan, Spencer Ackerman on a Khalid Sheik Mohammed trial in New York City, and the possibility that KSM will grandstand or make idiotic pronouncements somehow.

My hope for the KSM trial is that it does more than all this. It should forever shatter the pernicious myth that al-Qaeda is composed of supermen — supermen against whom America has no choice but to alter its character and most precious laws in order to confront. I suspect we’ll have an Eichmann-in-Jerusalem moment — and sorry for the unfortunate Nazi/al-Qaeda analogy; al-Qaeda are not the Nazis; but I couldn’t really think of any other parallel — except instead of the banality of evil, we’ll see the lunacy and vanity and self-absorption of it. That’s because al-Qaeda’s weltanshauung depends on a myth that holds America to be implacably determined to snuff out the glory of Islam. In reality, most Americans couldn’t give a fuck about Islam and only started to know the first thing about it because of 9/11. But that America — an America bearing no resemblance to the actual America — will be what KSM seeks to counter-indict. It’s farcical, and farcical in ways that can only benefit the real America.

But what grandstanding?

How is KSM going to grandstand?

Federal criminal trials are not state criminal trials like the OJ Simpson case.  There won’t be cameras in the courtroom, and there won’t be audio recordings, either.  He probably won’t do a perp walk, and he’ll certainly be held without bail, thus eliminating the possibility that he could hold impromptu press conferences on the courthouse steps every day.

The feds don’t put up with the kind of BS that state criminal courts let happen.  The most you’ll get is a dull recitation of the day’s events from some well-coiffed network talking head, or from some airheaded dullard on the Insider or Extra, and some courtroom sketches.  We won’t have, for instance, Nancy Grace picking video nits from the trial on a daily basis.  There won’t be OJ Simpson trying on a glove.  This will not be the media circus everyone’s assuming it will be.

But to Ackerman’s underlying point, echoing that of AG Holder – really, who cares what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has to say?  He’s a former, indicted board member of a morally bereft, financially troubled, ideologically unpopular terrorist death-cult.  Who gives a shit what he says or thinks?