Tag Archives: Witness

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.