He’s depraved on account-a he’s deprived. In an apotheosis of Qur’an 4:34, the “wife-beating verse,” Muzzammil Hassan beheaded his wife in the studio of the moderate Muslim television network he founded, Bridges TV. Now, in a classic Islamic supremacist displacement of responsibility onto the victim, he is claiming that his wife abused him, not the other way around. “‘Battered spouse’ defense allowed in beheading trial,” by Sandra Tan and Matt Gryta for the Buffalo News, September 4 (thanks to Mark):
After waiting 1 1/2 years for cable executive Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan to face murder charges in the stabbing and beheading of his wife, prosecutors suffered a blow Friday when a judge ruled that the defense can introduce evidence of “battered spouse syndrome.”
Prosecutors said the decision by Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk forced them to seek a delay — the third since the start of this year — in the trial, now scheduled for Jan. 10, nearly two full years after Aasiya Zubair Hassan was killed.
Jury selection had been set to begin Wednesday.
“I don’t want anyone to think for a moment that I am particularly happy with this,” Franczyk said.
In response, District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said he was infuriated at being forced to seek another delay because of “psychiatric hide-and-seek” by the defense.
“This is what is so darn maddening,” he said.
Julie Atti Rogers, one of Hassan’s lawyers, said the defense did not desire to delay the trial.
“We never wanted a postponement,” she said. “We never intended this case to get pushed out into the new year. That being said, we are happy … to have his doctor testify regarding the evaluation that she did and the diagnosis that she made.”
Rogers and co-defense counsel Jeremy D. Schwartz said Ana Natasha Cervantes, a Buffalo forensic psychiatrist, and Kenneth Corvo, a Syracuse psychologist, are ready to testify that Hassan suffered from “spousal abuse syndrome.”
Hassan has been jailed since Feb. 12, 2009, when he turned himself in to Orchard Park police after the body of his wife was found in the studio of Bridges TV, the Muslim-oriented cable station the couple had co-founded five years earlier.
Sedita and lead prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable said they had asked defense attorneys at least a dozen times whether they planned to introduce a psychiatric defense, only to be told “no,” “maybe” and “yes,” at different points.
Rogers responded that the defense’s plans for psychiatric testimony were hampered by changes in counsel, lack of funds to obtain a psychiatrist until May and a last-minute refusal by an expert in July to serve as a witness, forcing Hassan’s lawyers to scramble for another expert.
She also said her client is “pleased and happy” that his claims of spousal abuse will be heard at trial.
“He feels like he’s finally going to have a fair opportunity in court,” Rogers said. “It’s his constitutional right to present a defense, and he’s going to be given that right as a result of this decision.”
Prosecutors pointed out that, in January, Franczyk had barred a battered spouse defense and reiterated that position only last week.
But Friday, Francyzk changed his mind, citing the prosecution’s recently stated intent to introduce prior, uncharged evidence of Hassan’s abuse of his wife as proof of motive in the killing.
A week before her death, Aasiya Zubair Hassan had filed a divorce affidavit, obtained by The Buffalo News, chronicling a history of physical and psychological abuse, with accompanying photos of physical bruising.
She also had filed numerous police complaints over the years but never followed through in pressing charges.
Sedita said the prosecution’s intent to introduce indications of domestic violence by Hassan should come as a surprise to no one.
“Of course we want to bring in evidence of motive,” Sedita said Friday afternoon. “That’s pretty important part of every case.”
Citing delays by Hassan’s lawyers in revealing their strategy — despite criminal law mandating early disclosure — Gable told the judge, “This is the very situation that we predicted would happen” months ago.
Sedita later added, “If we do not ask for an adjournment, the defense is rewarded for their hide-and-seek tactics, and the prosecution is forced to go to trial with their hands tied behind their back.” […]
Though Hassan had to be dragged into and out of court last week, when he repeatedly referred to Franczyk as a “voodoo” judge, he remained calm Friday.
Earlier Friday, the judge heard contradictory accounts of problems in Hassan’s marriage.
The prosecution said Hassan had caused a miscarriage four years ago by dragging and sitting on his pregnant wife, while the defense said she had threatened to kill Hassan in his sleep.
Atti Rogers told the judge the defense team will prove, through e-mails and other material, that Hassan’s wife threatened him with a knife hours before she was beheaded and previously had threatened to move back to their native Pakistan with their two young children.
Hassan has two older children by a previous marriage.
The defense also said the victim verbally antagonized Hassan through their nine-year marriage and subjected him to “debilitating abuse” that caused Hassan to have low self-esteem, be medically depressed and in need of professional threatment.
Atti Rogers also said in court that Aasiya Zubair Hassan had kicked, slapped and struck her husband almost every day. At the time of the beheading, she said, Hassan feared he never would see his children again. His wife also had threatened to burn down their house and crash his car, the defense claimed.
Well, then! Off with her head!