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The trial of Muzzammil Hassan: Day 4

BUFFALO -- Jurors have reported back to Erie County Court this morning for a 10 a.m. start to day four of the Mo Hassan trial.

Hassan, 46, a former television executive of Bridges TV, is accused of the stabbing and beheading death of his 37-year-old wife, Aasiya Zubair Hassan.

Read News Staff Reporter Sandra Tan's account of the first week of the trial in "Hassan faulted on attempts to represent himself."

Read The News' entire coverage of the Hassan case.

6:28 p.m.: Schwartz also spoke to the media outside the courtroom late this afternoon after proceedings:

5:24 p.m.: In case you missed it, here's the recap of what happened earlier today, led by the ruling that Hassan can represent himself. Hassan's latest lawyer, Jeremy D. Schwartz, also spoke to reporters earlier today:

4:58 p.m.: The trial has recessed until 10 a.m. Tuesday.

4:54 p.m.: Photos from different cameras show a figure arriving at Bridges, holding an illuminated cell phone in a room and, later, Mrs. Hassan arriving at Bridges holding a plastic bag around 5:54 p.m. on Feb. 12, 2009.

4:46 p.m.: Gable is about to show still photographs taken from security cameras at Bridges with the video to be shown during testimony tomorrow.

4:41 p.m.: Payne, with shaved head wearing a shirt and tie, is very polite answering "Yes, ma'm" to each of Gable's questions.

4:37 p.m.: Det. Payne says no weapon was found near the victim or in her pockets. Earlier prosectors said they expect a self-defense claim from the defendant.

4:31 p.m.: Gable is now going over each item with Payne recovered from a Toys-r-Us bag found next to the victim including men's soap, keys and a Qur'an.

4:22 p.m.: Prosecutor Gable is going over crime scene photos with Payne -- the hallway where Aasiya's body was found, the contents of a bag found next to the victim's body and the bathroom where Payne found the knives.

4:16 p.m.: Payne says he observed "two large knives in the basin of the sink" in a bathroom. Payne waited for a search warrant and secured the scene, he said.

4:12 p.m.: Payne is recounting the events of Feb. 12, 2009 at Bridges TV studio. Through the window of a closed door, Payne said, "I could see a torso on the floor."

4:10 p.m.: Orchard Park Police Det. John Payne is now on the stand. 

4:09 p.m.: Judge instructs the jury that the next witness' testimony may include "graphic and in some instances gruesome" photos shown for their "evidentiary value" not to inflame emotions.

4:02 p.m.: Judge is finding that some of the photos are relevant. "I think it's relevant to show that [Aasiya's] hands were without any weapon," said Franczyk.

3:54 p.m.: Court is in session again. The defense objects to displaying any more crime scene photos because it's "inflammatory," said Hassan. Jury has not been seated.

3:35 p.m.: Officer Kadi is excused from the witness stand and Judge Franczyk called for a 10 minute recess.

3:30 p.m.: Bonanno is having Kadi read aloud the narrative he wrote stemming from the June 20 incident.

3:28 p.m.: Hassan concludes his cross-examination by recounting an incident where a car was towed away from the Hassans' home for a parking violation. Hassan asks Kadi if he was friendly to him and offered him a beer. Kadi said Hassan was friendly and doesn't recall the offer of a beer. "It was coffee," said Hassan. "I don't drink alcohol."

3:19 p.m.: Kadi said Aasiya did not want to continue with the case so it was not pursued further. Hassan asks if Kadi thinks it's "good police work" to not ask Hassan for his side of the story in any police reports Aasiya filed against her husband.

3:13 p.m.: Mo Hassan is attempting to make a claim that Aasiya falsely reported an incident in the complaint during his questioning of Orchard Park police officer Joe Kadi.

3:08 p.m.: As he runs into objections from prosecutors, Hassan is getting advice on phrasing his questions from his advisor attorney Jeremy Schwartz.

3:02 p.m.: Hassan just entered the police report into evidence as a defense exhibit. It supposedly involves an incident where Mo Hassan took off in Aasiya's van stranding her.

2:55 p.m.: Kadi just read a narrative written June 20, 2007 in a police report complaint that Aasiya filed against Mo Hassan.

2:49 p.m: Hassan begins his cross-examination by asking Kadi if he remembers receiving free coffee and donuts at the Orchard Park 7-11 that Aasiya ran. "Just coffee," Kadi replies.

2:44 p.m.: Kadi said he collected a piece of a jacket that was left in the hallway after Aasiya's body was removed by the coroner. Bonanno is introducing as evidence several photos of the crime scene, which depict blood, hair and the jacket piece. Bonanno also introduced the jacket piece as evidence and instructed Kadi to display it to the jury.

2:35 p.m.: Prosecutor Paul Bonanno is questioning Kadi about where Kadi searched for evidence in the Bridges TV studio including a trash can behind a desk.

2:29 p.m.: Kadi is recounting the events on the night of Feb. 12, 2009. Kadi said he was informed of a possible homicide on Thorn Road and responded to the scene. He entered the TV studio with flashlights and saw "a female body on the ground, she was on her back" that had been beheaded. He recognized the body as Aasiya Hassan. He then sought out a search warrant, he said.

2:25 p.m.: The trial has resumed. Prosecutors have called Orchard Park Police Officer Joseph Kadi to the stand.

12:51 p.m.: The trial breaks for lunch until 2:10 p.m.

12:50 p.m.: Hassan just finished his questioning of Baliwala. Gable just started her redirect cross-exam of the witness.

12:48 p.m.: There are at least five Erie County Sheriff's deputies and court police officers in the courtroom -- three standing right behind Hassan at the defense table as he questions the witness.

12:43 p.m.: Hassan's questions now concern Feb. 12, 2009 -- the date Aasiya died. The defendant has run into frequent roadblocks in his attempts to cross-examine Bridges TV General Manager Hunaid Baliwala.

12:33 p.m.: Gable says Hassan told her to "calm down" after she objected to one of his questions. "I will not have counsel telling me to 'calm down,'" said Gable. Franczyk told Hassan to direct all comments to him.

12:30 p.m.: Hassan is questioning Baliwala about his knowledge of Mo and Aasiya's relationship. Hassan: "Did you know about the marital problems of Aasiya and Mo from both sides?"

12:20 p.m.: Hassan is questioning Baliwala about their relationship including trips they took together and whether Hassan encouraged Baliwala to get his MBA degree. Gable is objecting as to the "relevance" of Hassan's line of questioning.

12:14 p.m.: Gable is objecting to many of Hassan's questions and claims they're "inadmissible hearsay." Judge Franczyk is sustaining many of the objections.

12:09 p.m.: Hassan is trying to read a list of adjectives to Baliwala such as "domineering." But Gable is objecting. Judge says Hassan may only question Baliwala on facts.

12:04 p.m.: Gable has finished her questioning of Baliwala. Hassan has begun his cross-examining of the witness -- his first since taking over as his own counsel -- and is referencing himself in the third person. Hassan has submitted some hand-written notes as evidence.

12:00 p.m.: Baliwala was allowed to return to the TV studio the following weekend. Ceiling tiles and whole walls were taken out by investigators in a hallway area, he said, and evidence markings were everywhere. Baliwala said he and another employee used bleach to clean up dried blood at the scene.

11:55 a.m.: While at the station, police informed Baliwala that Aasiya was dead and asked Baliwala if he could take all four of the Hassan children to his home that evening. Baliwala said the defendant during a phone call gave him some phone numbers of lawyers and instructions, which Baliwala was advised not to carry out.

11:51 a.m.: On Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009, Baliwala said he saw Aasiya around noon at the Bridges TV studio. He left for classes that night in Rochester and never saw her again, he said. Hamburg police came to his door later that night and requested that he call Orchard Park police, who asked him to come in to the police station.

11:45 a.m.: During the following work week, Aasiya and Mo Hassan were often in the TV station's conference room behind closed doors, Baliwala said.

11:37 a.m.: Hassan packed up and left the Bridges TV studio "in a rush" after being served divorce papers on Feb. 6, 2009, Baliwala said. Then Baliwala and his wife went to an Orchard Park Target store where Aasiya and the four children were shopping, he said. Baliwala was nervous for her, he said.

11:32 a.m.: Baliwala is recounting his knowledge of the relationship between Aasiya and Mo Hassan -- including when Aasiya planned on filing for divorce. Baliwala said he had advised Aasiya to file for divorce on a Friday to make things easier.

11:19 a.m.: Prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable is asking Baliwala about the layout of and security cameras inside the Bridges TV offices in Orchard Park where the murder of Aasiya Hassan took place. They are now reviewing photographs submitted as evidence.

11:02 a.m.: The judge has informed the jury that Hassan will be representing himself. The prosecution has called its next witness -- Bridges TV General Manager Hunaid Baliwala -- to the stand.

10:59 a.m.: The jury of five women and seven men has just filed into the courtroom.

10:49 a.m.: The judge, prosecution and Hassan have adjourned to a side room to discuss what Hassan called a "sensitive" issue. The judge will instruct the jury about this recent developments when they are seated.

10:43 a.m.: Attorneys are now going over how Hassan will be allowed to question witnesses. Hassan will be allowed to use a podium on the defense table. Exhibits will be handed to the witness by the court officer.

10:41 a.m.: Judge is getting assurances from Hassan that Hassan will follow the rules of counsel.

10:36 a.m.: Franczyk: "Bottom line is [Hassan] does have the right to steer his own ship even if unwittingly he steers it into an iceberg." Judge is going to grant Hassan's request to represent himself but wants to make sure Hassan knows some of the rules. Schwartz is going to stay on as an advisor.

10:34 a.m.: Judge says the defendant must have an idea in his head of how a lawyer should represent him. "This is not Burger King where you get to have it your way every time," said Judge Franczyk.

10:31 a.m.: The judge is reviewing case law on the issue of self-representation.

10:29 a.m.: Judge Franczyk says it was his hope that the defense would reconcile over the weekend since the issue of self-representation came up last week. The judge says he has since reviewed the issue. The defendant does have the right to counsel of his choice, the judge said.

10:24 a.m.: Hassan has just been led into the courtroom. There is a sketch artist in the courtroom. Defense attorney Jeremy Schwartz says his differences with the defendant are "irreconcilable." He is asking the judge to allow Hassan to represent himself.

10:20 a.m.: News reporter Sandy Tan says she spotted what may be a Qur'an placed near the witness stand next to the Bible. The defense had asked for one last week.

10:09 a.m.: The judges and attorneys are back in the courtoom having returned from a nearly 20 minute conference in judge's chambers. No sign of the defendant or jury yet.

9:50 a.m.: Judge Thomas P. Franczyk and attorneys representing the defense and prosecution were in the courtroom but have just gone into conference in judge's chambers. The jury has not been seated yet. Prosecutors have also carted in six boxes of evidence.

--Joseph Popiolkowski

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