Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan represented himself for most of the trial.
Charles Lewis / Buffalo News
Hassan found guilty
Updated: February 7, 2011, 5:44 PM
A jury of eight men and four women has found Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan guilty of second-degree murder in the stabbing and beheading of his wife, Aasiya, in February 2009.
The jury reached its verdict after 14 days of testimony and arguments spread over the course of three weeks in Erie County Court. The verdict carries a minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum sentence of 25 years to life. Sentencing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. March 9.
The jury took only 50 minutes to deliberate, clearly moved by the mountain of evidence and eyewitness testimony presented by prosecutors Colleen Curtin Gable and Paul Bonnanno that Hassan was a longtime abuser who methodically planned the brutal, blood-soaked attack on his wife in the darkened hallway of the Bridges TV studio.
In handing up its guilty verdict, the jury also repudiated the claims of Hassan, 46, that he — not his wife — was the victim of battered spouse syndrome.
The verdict wraps up weeks of drama and astounding legal maneuvers in a case in which the man charged with murder ultimately took over his own defense and claimed the witness stand for four days as he dragged jurors through his observations during the course of his eight-year marriage.
During his two-hour closing statement, Hassan repeatedly told jurors that the prosecution was building its case solely based on vindictive falsehoods spread by his wife, Aasiya, in the last two years of their marriage.
“All these people are hearing stories,” he told the jury in closing arguments. “They want you to believe stories are evidence. They have no witnesses.”
He also said the judge, prosecutors, police officers and medical professionals who have testified against him are doing so based on their preconceived notion that only women can be abuse victims. In closing arguments, he referred to their adherence to a “religion of patriarchy.”
He pointed out that before the last two years of his marriage, he had a “perfect record” and was known to police as “soft-spoken,” “respectful” and “polite” man.
“Suddenly, in the last two years, there’s a skyscraper of complaints. Did I suddenly have a major personality change?” he asked.
He also accused Aasiya of using their children as weapons and pawns in their marriage, and for heaping rage, threats and insults upon him. But to the outside world, she seemed a lovely woman.
“Only the victim sees the evil side,” he said. “The world does not.”
Hassan finished by saying he was the victim of “psychological rape” and likened himself to a slave, prisoner and hostage in his marriage.
Jurors paid attention to Hassan’s closing statements, though some began fidgeting after an hour.
They were very attentive, however, to chief prosecutor Curtin Gable during her hourlong closing statement.
After Hassan was served with divorce papers and realized there was no way she would return to him, Curtin Gable said, Hassan chose to end her life “violently and brutally.”
“Self defense? Not a chance, not even close,” she said. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is intentional murder beyond a reasonable doubt — quite frankly, beyond any doubt.”
Despite Hassan’s attempt to paint his wife as an “evil dragon,” Curtin Gable said, “At best, there is evidence that she lost her temper with him at times and called him names. And who could blame her?”
He stopped her from pressing charges or from filing for divorce by “emotionally and financially blackmailing her.”
When he couldn’t any longer, she said, he decided to kill her.
“How dare she file for divorce? How dare she attempt to gain control over her own life, her own future, and the lives and future of the children?” Curtin Gable said. “How dare she expose him for what he’d done to her? How dare she tell him enough is enough? He was not going to let that happen.”
Curtin Gable took the jurors clearly and thoroughly through each aspect of the second-degree murder charge, and made a strong case that any self-defense charge was completely unsupported by the evidence.
Though Aasiya is dead and cannot speak for herself, she speaks through her wounds, her body and through those she left behind, Curtin Gable said, summing up her closing arguments through choked words and tears.
“And now is my final time to speak for her,” she said. “That is my job, my duty, my privilege, to speak for those who no longer speak for themselves, to seek justice for them. To seek justice today for Aasiya Zubair Hassan.”
She finished, “It is time for this defendant to get his due, to face justice, finally to be held responsible for his choices, finally to be held accountable for his actions. And you are the ones to do just that.”
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