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The trial of Muzzammil Hassan: Day 6

BUFFALO -- The murder trial of of Muzzammil "Mo" Hassan continued in Erie County Court today as the prosecution wrapped up its presentation.

Hassan, 46, is accused of stabbing and beheading his wife, Aasiya Zubair Hassan, at an Orchard Park television station on Feb. 12, 2009.

Judge Thomas P. Franczyk has allowed Hassan to represent himself.

The News followed developments in today's court proceedings below:

5:09 p.m.: Hassan's attorney has sent out about 40 subpoenas for potential witnesses, but might not need to call all of them to testify.

Defense attorney Jeremy Schwartz, who is now serving as a legal advisor to Hassan as Hassan represents himself, said he does not know how long the defense presentation will take.

Many of the witnesses, Schwartz said, will be unnecessary if attorneys can agree to -- or stipulate to -- allowing certain documents to be entered into evidence.

"We have had numerous pages of documents entered by stipulation just this afternoon," Schwartz said. "There may be more tomorrow morning."

Schwartz also clarified why Hassan repeatedly said this afternoon that many of those documents -- which include police reports and other paperwork -- would refer to his own "bad acts." Hassan had argued in court that the prosecution should allow the documents to be admitted into evidence because they would help their side of the case. 

Hassan, Schwartz said, was referring to a legal principle, Molineux, which allows certain prior "bad acts" of a defendant to be entered as evidence.

"Mr. Hassan has always said that he's very interested in not just some things coming out, but he wants everything to come out," Schwartz said. "And whether some things are called 'bad acts' or something else, he wants it all in."

Listen to Schwartz speak to reporters after today's court proceedings:

***

4 p.m.: Franczyk has wrapped up the court proceedings for the day. The trial is scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. Thursday.

***

3:59 p.m.:At least one expert witness that Hassan still says he will bring to the stand has told Judge Franczyk that she will not testify for him -- a point the judge made Tuesday and repeated again today.

Hassan has named three expert witnesses in response to questions about whom he plans to call.

However, Franczyk has again told Hassan that one of the potential witnesses, a forensic psychologist, has written a letter to the judge saying she will not testify on his behalf.

Franczyk told Hassan to do legal research on whether he could compel an expert witness to testify on his behalf in a criminal case.

Franczyk had a lengthy discussion with Hassan over whether the experts would be prepared to testify for him when called.

"It's not my intention to delay this case ad infinitum on the off-chance that somebody may come in," Franczyk said.

***

3:54 p.m.: Hassan has told the judge that he expects to be ready to call witnesses to the stand in the morning. 

"If not, then I'll go on the stand," Hassan told Franczyk.

Schwartz told the judge that subpoenas have been sent out and he expects to attempt to contact potential witnesses this evening. 

***

3:44 p.m.: Judge Franczyk has allowed the jurors to go home for the evening as Hassan and attorneys discuss legal matters in the courtroom with the judge.

***

3:38 p.m.: Judge Franczyk is now reviewing several records and reports that Hassan wants to submit as evidence. 

Prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable has said she needs time to review the records before agreeing to allow them into evidence. 

To describe some of the documents, Hassan said: "It's more reports of my wife beating." He later described it as "alleged wife beating."

***

3:31 p.m.: Hassan has asked the judge to submit two pieces of paper from his children without calling them back to the witness stand.

The judge questioned why the defense didn't bring up the paperwork when the children, Michael and Sonia, were on the stand last week.

Hassan said he did not know why the papers were not brought up since at that point defense attorney Jeremy Schwartz was conducting the defense. Hassan is now representing himself with Schwartz serving as a legal advisor.

"I had provided all the material, but for whatever reason, it was not brought up," Hassan said.

Schwartz told the judge he was not aware of the paperwork when he cross examined the children.

Curtin Gable has argued that the trial "could go on forever" if Hassan is allowed to bring back witnesses who have already taken the stand.

Hassan, the attorneys and the judge have been discussing what evidence can be submitted and what witnesses can be called back for several minutes.

Curtin Gable earlier objected to one of the reports Hassan wanted to submit that pertained to a December 2007 stove fire.

"I don't see any relevance to that," Curtin Gable said.

Hassan responded: "Your honor, it is related because Aasiya ended up with a black eye because of that and she's been telling other people that I hit her."

***

3:19 p.m.: Hassan has had a rocky start to the beginning of his defense presentation.

He has told the judge he did not expect the prosecution to wrap up this afternoon and is not ready to call witnesses. He then gave the judge a list of witnesses he said could be called if they are in the building.

"I don't imagine witnesses will just materialize unless summoned to court by a legal process," Franczyk said after reviewing a few of the names on the list.

Hassan has now asked to submit reports from police and child protection services directly into evidence this afternoon -- a request that the prosecution has asked for time to review. 

Prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable said she did not want to be forced to make a "hasty" decision regarding the admitting documents into evidence.

Hassan, however, pointed out that they were police records that included "bad acts" by himself.

"Your honor," Hassan told the judge, "They're mostly more bad acts by me, sir, to benefit them." 

The jury is not in the room as the judge, Hassan and attorneys discuss the legal matters.

Franczyk noted that some of the paperwork Hassan wants to submit have handwritten notes on them made by Hassan. 

Hassan said he did not have clean copies of the records available this afternoon.

***

3:12 p.m.: Judge Franczyk denied Hassan's request to give a statement directly to the jurors after a court reporter read back an exchange between the judge and Hassan from Monday morning.

Hassan had insisted the record would reflect that Franczyk had promised to allow him to give the statement to jurors. Franczyk disagreed.

After the court reporter read the transcript -- which did not include such a promise -- Hassan told the judge, "It was earlier than that."

"Your motion is denied," Franczyk said.

Franczyk then questioned what Hassan was prepared to do during the final two hours of the court day. 

***

3:04 p.m.: Hassan told the judge that he is not yet prepared to call witnesses in his defense because he had not expected the prosecution to wrap up its presentation this afternoon.

Instead, he asked Judge Franczyk to allow him to give a direct statement to the jurors.

"I'm not inclined to give you a second shot at an opening statement," Franczyk said.

Hassan then insisted that Franczyk had previously promised that he be able to open his defense with a statement to the jurors -- an assertion that both the judge and prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable deny. 

Hassan has now asked the judge to allow a court reporter to look through the record from Monday morning's court proceedings to determine if the judge had made such a promise.

Franczyk, who is allowing the court reporter to review the transcript, told Hassan he's pretty sure Hassan will be "disappointed" with the result of reviewing the transcript.

"There's absolutely no doubt that the court's recollection is correct on this," Curtin Gable told the judge.

***

2:56 p.m.: Sarah Murrin, a forensic serologist from the Erie County Central Police Services Laboratory, testified that a bandage found on Hassan's right middle finger on the night of his arrest had Aasiya Hassan's DNA on it.

"Is it therefore fair to say that, literally, he had her blood on his hand?" asked prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable.

Murrin answered that it was.

Murrin also testified that a mixture of DNA found on one of the hunting knives collected from the scene included DNA of both Aasiya Hassan and Hassan.

Most of the DNA, Murrin said, came from Aasiya Hassan.

Muzzammil Hassan could not be excluded as a contributor to the smaller portion of DNA on the knife, Murrin testified.

Murrin said the minor portion of DNA found on the knife was only a small amount and was part of a mixture of DNA. Because of the condition of the sample, she said, a higher percentage of people could match the DNA profile.

"Therefore, I certainly can't say that he's the source of the DNA, only that he can't be excluded as the contributor," Murrin said of the sample taken from the knife.

Murrin also testified that Hassan "could not be excluded as the contributor" to a major DNA profile found on the collar of a long-sleeve shirt found on the scene.

The DNA evidence wrapped up the prosecution's presentation, Curtin Gable said.

***

2:31 p.m.: Sarah Murrin, an Erie County Central Police Services Laboratory forensic serologist, is testifying that she tested dried red stains on two Buck hunting knives and found that the stains were blood.

One of the knives had a blade of about 5 3/4 inches, Murrin said.

Murrin said she also swabbed the blade and the handle of each knife for the potential of skin cells left on the weapon and performed DNA analysis on the swabs.

Murrin said she also tested a long-sleeved light blue striped shirt and found that dried red stains on the shirt were blood. She performed DNA analysis on a bloody section of the shirt and attempted to collect skin cells from its collar to determine who wore the shirt.

Witnesses have previously testified that the shirt and the two hunting knives were found at Bridges TV after Aasiya Hassan's death.

Murrin also described performing tests on a pair of suede shoes, an M&T Bank envelope and a bandage taken from Hassan's right middle finger the night he was arrested. The bandage, Murrin said, tested positive for blood. She was not able to obtain a DNA sample from the envelope. 

Hassan gave the envelope to his son, Michael, shortly after leaving Bridges TV on the night of Aasiya Hassan's death, Michael Hassan testified previously.

***

2:18 p.m.: Kristen Betker, a senior forensic serologist for the Erie County Central Police Services Laboratory, testified that she processed a DNA sample taken from Aasiya Hassan's body in the case.

Another forensic serologist, Sarah Murrin, has now taken the stand to discuss the sample. 

***

2:05 p.m.: The jury has re-entered the courtroom. Kristen Betker, a senior forensic serologist for the Erie County Central Police Services Laboratory, is on the stand and discussing DNA analysis.

***

12:31 p.m.: The jurors have been given a break for lunch. The trial is scheduled to resume at about 2 p.m.

Before the break, James Murphy, a confidential criminal investigator with the Erie County District Attorney's Office, introduced DNA evidence taken from Hassan. 

***

12:10 p.m.: In the hour leading up to Aasiya Hassan's death, she and her husband exchanged cell phone text messages in which Hassan appeared to plead for forgiveness.

"I am a good man, Aasiya," Hassan wrote. "A humble and decent man, made some mistakes, please don't punish me so hard. God likes forgiveness."

The message was sent about 10 minutes before Aasiya Hassan was attacked and beheaded at the Bridges TV studios as she dropped off a bag for Hassan.

The day of her death, the two discussed meeting for lunch and arranged for Aasiya to drop off clean items for Hassan at his office.

"I cannot carry on without you and family," Hassan wrote Aasiya Hassan at about 5:35 p.m. the night of her death.

A few minutes later he wrote:  "I have not done anything to hurt you since Sunday, since I saw my mistake." 

Then, two minutes later, he wrote: "You are important to me and worth changing for."

Two days earlier, a series of text messages show Hassan pleading with his wife to call him.

"Aasiya, not talking increases negativity," Hassan wrote at 11:34 p.m. on Feb. 10, 2009. "I have been so good all day. Please at least give me a chance to sleep peacefully."

She responded: "Mo, I know but it is time both of us let go. Please do not make it more difficult for both of us."

The text messages were among a series Hassan sent to Aasiya that night.

Earlier, Aasiya Hassan had sent two text messages saying she couldn't talk to him: "Mo, I would be in trouble if I do not stop talking to you."

He responded a minute later: "No, Aasiya, God is with us. Third parties scare us. We are responsible people. How much have we learned by talking."

Two minutes later he wrote: "I don't want to "fix you." Plus these are work phones."

Then a minute later: "I was really good today in giving you space and support. I think I made a mistake ... of fixing, just need clarification so I can improve."

Then: "Aasiya, please give me two minutes so I can go to sleep in peace." 

After several more messages, his final text that night was: "Aasiya, please, have some heart, two minutes, I have given you two."

Text messages between Hassan and his wife the week of her death were read aloud to the jurors by Jeff Strohm, a custodian of records for Sprint Nextel.

***

11:41 a.m.: Prosecutors subpoenaed text messages from Hassan's cell phone from the week of Aasiya Hassan's murder in February 2009.

Jeff Strohm, a custodian of records for Sprint Nextel, is now testifying about 18 pages of text messages sent and received from Hassan's cell phone between Feb. 4, 2009, and Feb. 13, 2009.

The text messages have been entered into evidence.

***

11:33 a.m.: Hassan invoked his Miranda rights not to discuss the case the night he turned himself into Orchard Park Police Headquarters after Aasiya Hassan's death, Orchard Park Police Lt. Eugene "Joe" Wehrfritz said.

Wehrfritz testified that Hassan was advised of those rights at about 8:41 p.m., and Hassan then invoked them.

"So after that, you couldn't ask for his side of the story," Prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable asked.

Curtin Gable also focused on two assertions Hassan has made about his wife.

"Did he ever mention anything about a knife being pulled on him?" Curtin Gable asked.

"No," Wehrfritz replied.

"Did he mention anything about any threats made by his wife?" Curtin Gable asked.

"No," Wehrfritz replied. 

***

11:17 a.m.: Under cross examination, Orchard Park Police Lt. Eugene "Joe" Wehrfritz said that during his police career he had only seen one person accused of murder who had gone directly to the police station after the death.

"In 25 years, I only had one case where a murderer came right in," Wehrfritz said.

Hassan turned himself in to the police station shortly after Aasiya Hassan's murder. 

Wehrfritz told Hassan he thought that was unusual.

***

11:11 a.m.: Hassan has asked Orchard Park Police Lt. Eugene "Joe" Wehrfritz several questions about his knowledge of domestic violence cases.

Several of the questions focused on what Wehrfritz knows, based on the 25 domestic violence calls he has responded to as a police officer, about domestic violence -- whether men are typically the abusers, how abusers "are created" and what they fear the most.

Most of the questions have been met with objections from prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable.

Franczyk allowed Wehrfritz to answer some of the questions, but later warned Hassan that he seemed to be "taking him down the wrong road here." 

"Mr. Hassan, this is the evidence collection guy," Franczyk said. "You seem to be wanting to take him into another dimension that is beyond the scope of his expertise."

Hassan then changed his line of questioning.

***

10:53 a.m.: Judge Franczyk has warned Hassan not to ask questions that "assume facts not in evidence."

"I'm not going to allow you to just throw a fact out there that you believe to be true," Franczyk said. "Any such fact would have to come in in the proper form."

The warning came from the judge during Hassan's cross examination of Orchard Park Police Lt. Eugene "Joe" Wehrfritz as Hassan asked about a broken laptop collected by police.

Hassan had asked: "Did you discover it was Aasiya who broke that laptop in a violent rage?"

Prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable objected to the question.

"Move to strike," Curtin Gable said. "This calls for hearsay. These are exactly the types of questions we discussed earlier."

Hassan has asked that the broken laptop be brought into evidence. 

***

10:48 a.m.: Hassan, in cross examination of Orchard Park Police Lt. Eugene "Joe" Wehrfritz, has focused several questions on whether the lieutenant collected any evidence that Hassan was having affairs with other women.

Hassan has focused in on several specific women and asked Wehrfritz to say whether he saw any evidence that he had an affair or "sexual relations" with them.

Wehrfritz has answered, "No, I did not," to the questions.

"Did you become aware that Aasiya accused me of having extra marital affairs?" Hassan asked Wehrfritz. 

"No, I did not," Wehrfritz replied. 

***

10:32 a.m.: Prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable has asked the judge to instruct Hassan not to ask certain types of questions that would lead to hearsay.

"It is distracting," Curtin Gable said. "It is potentially misleading to the jury to have these questions asked and out there. I have to object to them every time."

During cross examination on Tuesday, witnesses were repeatedly stopped from answering questions posed by Hassan after Curtin Gable lodged objections.

Hassan has been representing himself since Monday, with defense attorney Jeremy Schwartz acting as an advisor.

"It's getting to the point where the defendant should know the rules by now," Curtin Gable said.

During legal arguments before the judge this morning, Hassan told the judge  he didn't know why Curtin Gable was afraid of the "truth" in a "place where the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth comes out."

Franczyk then told Hassan it was a matter of the truth getting to the jury in the proper way.

"It has taken her three years of law school," Hassan said of the prosecutor. "I've only had two days."

Franczyk, responding that it was Hassan's own choice to represent himself, said he had to hold Hassan to the same standard.

"I would ask that you tailor your questions accordingly," Franczyk told Hassan.

Curtin Gable also asked the judge to reflect in the record that Hassan has often consulted with Schwartz during the trial this week. 

***

10:15 a.m.: Hassan has entered the courtroom. Attorneys are now discussing legal matters before Franczyk without the jury present, including whether a divorce affidavit filed by Aasiya Hassan can be shown to the jury.

***

10 a.m.: The trial is expected to resume shortly. Franczyk is hearing arguments in other cases. 

***

9:56 a.m.: The sister of Aasiya Zubair Hassan has told News Staff Reporter Sandra Tan there is no truth to a suggestion Hassan made in court on Tuesday that Aasiya Hassan "killed her brother."

"We have only one brother," Aasiya's sister, Asma Firfirey, wrote in an e-mail. "Thank God he's alive."

Firfirey, who lives in South Africa, was responding to questions from The News about Hassan's statement. 

Hassan, during cross examination of an Orchard Park detective lieutenant on Tuesday, asked: "Have you become aware that Aasiya had killed her brother?" 

Franczyk stopped Hassan from continuing the line of questioning after the prosecution objected.

***

Read News Staff Reporter Sandra Tan's account of Tuesday's court proceedings in "Hassan cites report to support abuse claim."

See The News' entire coverage of the Hassan case at the Mo Hassan topics page.

--Denise Jewell Gee

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