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The trial of Muzzammil "Mo" Hassan: Day 13

BUFFALO -- The murder trial of Muzzammil "Mo" Hassan continues today.

Hassan, 46, is accused of stabbing and beheading his wife, Aasiya Zubair Hassan, at an Orchard Park television station Feb. 12, 2009. Hassan turned himself in the same night.

Erie County Court Judge Thomas P. Franczyk has allowed Hassan to represent himself.

 

4:23 p.m. Court has adjourned after resolving the media requests.

 

4:21 p.m. Franczyk and Hassan then discussed how and when Hassan intends to read the e-mails that were entered into evidence to the jury. Franczyk admonished Hassan for his intention to read so many of the e-mails to the jury, and warned him that he may lose the attention of the jury if he does this. He told Hassan that he believed he had worked in advertising, and said he should know something about how much information people are able to process at any one time.

"When you just read something into evidence that's just an invitation to put people to sleep, I think," Franczyk cautioned.

 

4:16 p.m. Franczyk, Hassan and prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable are discussing whether and how still and video cameras will be allowed in court Monday to record the closing arguments for the case. Curtin Gable is expressing concern that the cameras not capture photos from the crime scene and other graphic images that will be displayed on a TV in court.

 

4:12 p.m. Essentially, Franczyk disallowed all e-mails that don't include comments from both Aasiya and Hassan and all e-mails that were written after the date in February 2008 when Aasiya said Hassan forced her to give him the password to her e-mail account.

 

4:08 p.m. What are the sides debating at this point? Small, numbing details.

One e-mail Hassan wanted to enter into evidence referred to a $200 check he gave to Aasiya.

Hassan wanted it entered into evidence because he said Aasiya complained about being under Hassan's thrall financially, while he believes this contradicts that claim.

"You think the jury wants to hear this kind of minutia?" Franczyk asked.

"My vote is no," Curtin Gable said, prompting laughter.

Franczyk said he thought she'd say that, but his question was directed toward Hassan.

 When Hassan said he did, Franczyk said he would allow it into evidence.

 

4 p.m. Franczyk is getting exasperated with Hassan, who is trying to enter into evidence a number of e-mails between Aasiya and Hassan. Franczyk complained that Hassan is trying to admit stand-alone e-mails that make it hard to understand their context or where they fit in a conversational thread.

 "How long are we going to keep doing this? I've been banging my head against the wall reading e-mails," Franczyk said at one point.

Prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable, in objecting to various e-mails, describes them critically as "self-serving."

 

3:51 p.m. Prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable and Hassan now are discussing, with Franczyk, which e-mails sent between Hassan and Aasiya will be admitted into evidence and shown to the jurors. Franczyk has agreed that some e-mails from 2000 will be admitted and the parties now are discussing e-mails from the period of 2006 to 2008. Curtin Gable has objected to the acceptance of a number of the latter e-mails, and the judge and Curtin Gable and Hassan are going through them one by one.

 

3:45 p.m. Prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable now is reading from Aasiya's divorce affidavit, in which she said Hassan scripted her answers for the Family Court proceeding, as well as the questions that she, Hassan and their babysitter would be asked.

She has finished and the defense has concluded. Franczyk is now saying that closing arguments will be given Monday and he hopes that the jury can begin its deliberations Monday. As he excused them from the courtroom, he again reminded the jurors to not discuss the case with anyone and to avoid news coverage of the case.

 

3:41 p.m. Aasiya testified in the Feb. 5, 2008, Family Court neglect proceeding that Hassan had not hurt her in the previous seven months. The last incident was in June 2007, she testified, according to a section of testimony transcript read by legal adviser Jeremy Schwartz.

We have been getting along and learning more and more," Aasiya testified, Schwartz read.

He has finished reading from the transcript.

 

3:36 p.m. Aasiya testified in Family Court that the couple's sessions with family therapist David Myrow had been helpful, according to the sections of the transcript read by Hassan legal adviser Jeremy Schwartz.

She also testified that the couple had begun sessions with Kenneth Condrell, another therapist. who was helping her address some of her problems, including communication with Hassan and the children. 

She also testified to the stress she felt after losing two children, one to a miscarriage and one to an abortion. Aasiya also testified in the proceeding that taking care of her children and stepchildren, driving them to various activities and overseeing their education, could be stressful.

 

3:32 p.m. Jeremy Schwartz, Hassan's legal adviser, is reading to the jury the sections of Aasiya's Family Court testimony transcript that were entered into evidence. The proceeding occurred on Feb. 5, 2008.

Schwartz began by reading a question posed to Aasiya that asked whether there had been any problems between the beginning of her marriage to Hassan and March 2007 between her husband and their children. She said no, but said there were problems between her and her husband.

 

3:20 p.m. Child & Protective Services filed a child-neglect petition against Hassan, citing abuse allegations, and this is what prompted the Family Court proceeding.

Aasiya said in her divorce affidavit that she stayed home for two days to memorize the answers provided by Hassan to prepare for her Family Court testimony.

The court has taken a five minute break, and the jury will be brought back into the courtroom shortly to hear the approved sections of the Family Court transcript read to them.

 

3:12 p.m. Both sides have previously agreed to include Aasiya's divorce affidavit, which was her statement regarding Hassan's alleged lengthy pattern of abuse. Hassan wants portions of the transcript from the Family Court proceeding entered into evidence to impeach her divorce statement.

The divorce affidavit explicitly states that Hassan forced Aasiya to memorize a script of answers for some of her Family Court testimony.

 

3 p.m. Franczyk, prosecutors Colleen Curtin Gable and Paul Bonanno, Hassan and Hassan legal advisers Jeremy Schwartz and Elizabeth Bruce are going through sections of a transcript of a Family Court proceeding to see which parts of the transcript will be entered into evidence for the trial. 

Presumably, Hassan wants to use statements from the transcript to refute earlier testimony, or evidence entered into the record. The parties have pored over the transcript for about 10 minutes now.

 

2:51 p.m. Hassan told Franczyk he has no further defense witnesses to call. Franczyk excused the jury from the room and prosecutors, Hassan, his legal advisers and Franczyk are discussing whether a transcript of a Family Court proceeding is admissible as evidence.

 

2:48 p.m. Hassan asked David Myrow about Aasiya's "flip-flop" in agreeing to visit Hassan at his hotel before complaining to the therapist that she didn't want to go as often. Prosecutors objected, Franczyk sustained the objection and Hassan said he had no further questions. Myrow has left the witness stand.

 

2:44 p.m. Prosecutor Paul Bonanno has finished his cross examination of Hassan family therapist David Myrow and Hassan has begun to question Myrow on re-direct.

 

2:42 p.m. Aasiya, in an individual session with family therapist David Myrow, admitted that once during a fight between the couple, when Hassan had thrown things around a room, Aasiya broke his laptop.

Aasiya told Myrow she had gotten information from an official at her graduate school, a friend, about Haven House, a sanctuary for women in troubled or abusive relationships, Myrow recalled under questioning from prosecutor Paul Bonanno.

Aasiya told the therapist she was torn about leaving the marriage, and she was concerned that she would lose custody of the children to Hassan if she did divorce him.

Aasiya said she has been able to assert herself at times, by calling 911 for example, and she told Myrow she would take further action if Hassan physically threatened her or their children again.

In a later session, on Feb. 3, 2009, Aasiya told Myrow that she had contacted a lawyer. Hassan at that point had moved out, but Aasiya felt compelled to visit him at the hotel where he was staying because she feared he would get upset if she cut back on those visits.

Aasiya then told Myrow that Hassan had his brother tap into her e-mails, something Hassan denied.

Aasiya said she felt guilty that she didn't stand up to Hassan sooner, out of fear, but now feels she could leave him and provide for herself and their children.

 

2:35 p.m. Prosecutor Paul Bonanno asked David Myrow to recall that Aasiya had complained to him of being physically abused by Hassan, including suffering black eyes at his hands, while Hassan never complained of physical abuse at Aasiya's hands. 

Aasiya told Myrow that she wanted to leave the marriage because of Hassan's abuse, noting an attempt by Hassan to drive her car off the road, and she became increasingly frustrated that Hassan kept complaining about how much pain he was in, Myrow recalled from his sesion notes.

In a Dec. 4, 2007, session, a "distressed" Aasiya complained to Myrow of "years of physical abuse" from her husband, as well as his threats to kill himself and instances when he made dangerous movements while the couple was in a car together, Myrow recalled for Bonanno.

 

2:29 p.m. Hassan has finished his direct examination of David Myrow and prosecutor Paul Bonanno has begun his cross examination of the Hassan family therapist.

 

2:27 p.m. Hassan slowly is guiding David Myrow, a family therapist who worked with the Hassans, through the notes he kept from his sessions with the couple and his memories of those encounters.

Myrow recalled, under questioning from Hassan, that Hassan complained of verbal abuse by Aasiya while Aasiya complained of physical abuse by Hassan.

Hassan asked Myrow if he ever saw bruises or other injuries on Aasiya that would indicate she had been abused.

"I do not believe I did," Myrow said.

 Hassan again asked whether Myrow, during the entire period between July 2007 to January 2009 when the couple met with the therapist, whether he had written in his notes any observation of evidence of Hassan's abuse of Aasiya.

"No."

 Did Myrow see Hassan hit Aasiya?

 "No."

 In a Feb. 5, 2009, session in which Myrow saw Hassan alone, Myrow read from notes indicating that Hassan had complained that he was angry that Aasiya continued to refuse to respect his feelings and try to dominate him.

Hassan repeatedly focused on her efforts to take the children to Pakistan every year to see her family, felt that was too expensive, Myrow said, and felt she had lied about his behavior to her family.

Myrow tried to listen, and express sympathy, and reminded Hassan that he has an extensive network of friends and family to rely on for support, but this wasn't enough for Hassan, Myrow recalled.

Hassan wanted Myrow to "confront" her over her tactics, something Myrow said he couldn't do.

 

 2:08 p.m. The testimony of David Myrow, the Hassan family therapist, continues to have a stop-and-start feel to it.

Myrow at one point rebuffed Hassan's questioning by saying he didn't recall a particular conversation, even when asked to read his session notes to refresh his memory. Franczyk then told Hassan to move on, and Hassan paused for a few moments to consult with his legal adviser Jeremy Schwartz before asking his next question.

He then went back to December 2007 and asked Myrow to recall a conversation in which Hassan said he felt he was unable to express his opinions and feelings to Aasiya and felt like he was under Aasiya's control.

Hassan said this in an e-mail to Myrow. Myrow at first had trouble recalling this before acknowledging to Franczyk that he did remember Hassan saying this to him.

There was another delay of a few moments before Hassan asked another question about his complaints that Aasiya wasn't kind enough and gentle enough to him, referring to their marriage as a "total dictatorship" under Aasiya's control. Hassan said he made these complaints to Myrow in December 2007. Myrow is again referring back to his notes.

"Let's move it along please," Franczyk said, following yet another objection from the prosecution in response to a Hassan question.

"Can't we focus on what was done in the sessions," an exasperated Franczyk said a few minutes later, urging Hassan to stay away in his questioning from e-mails he sent that haven't been entered into evidence.

 

1:59 p.m. David Myrow, a family therapist who worked with Hassan and his wife, Aasiya, is continuing his testimony under questioning from Hassan.

He referred to notes from an early January session with the Hassans that indicate Aasiya had told him that she felt safer now that Hassan was out of their home and living in a hotel. Aasiya said she would visit Hassan at the hotel after working with Hassan all day at their Bridges TV studio.

"She says, convincingly, things are better now," Myrow said. Hassan has stopped nagging her about things, especially problems from the past, and Hassan told Myrow that he believes their marriage is better as well.

On Jan. 15, 2008, Hassan shared with Myrow a roadmap, or plan, to a better marriage that he had worked out. It was meant to help the couple work on communication and respect issues.

Myrow said he was surprised to see this plan and it seemed like there was a real effort to improve communications within the marriage and it was a plan that might be helpful.

Aasiya, according to this roadmap, was to work harder to find compromise, respect boundaries, and make Hassan feel safe enough to share his opinions without fear of "punishments," though Myrow said he didn't know what that meant.

 

1:46 p.m. The jury has returned from a brief break.

 

1:42 p.m. Even Hassan is concerned about the pace of the testimony of David Myrow, his witness and a Hassan family therapist.

After going seemingly day by day through the couple's sessions with Myrow, he told the witness, "In the interest of time I'm skipping things."

He asked Myrow to read from a Sept. 6, 2007, session note that stated Hassan had told Myrow he was scared of threats from Aasiya, his wife, and kept his guard up.

Skipping ahead, to notes from an Oct. 30, 2007, individual session with Aasiya, Myrow read that he observed she got histrionic at times --- dramatic about how she feels, he explained to the jury --- and that she had told him that a fiance of hers had previously died in a small plane crash.

Following this tragedy, her father had encouraged her to lead an independent life, something unusual for a woman of her cultural background. This is one reason, Aasiya told Myrow, that she wanted to earn an MBA and Hassan has previously testified that this is one reason she chose to marry him and move to the United States.

 

1:29 p.m. David Myrow, the Hassan family therapist, has continued testifying, under questioning from Hassan, to his sessions with Hassan and Aasiya in the summer of 2007.

Hassan in some cases is asking Myrow to go session by session through his interactions with the couple, asking him to read a paragraph here and a sentence there from his session notes. Myrow at times has had trouble finding the parts of the notes to which Hassan is referring. 

Reading from an Aug. 3, 2007 session, Myrow said Hassan had told him then that he felt closer to Aasiya than he had recently because she seemed to have let down some of the emotional wall that she had put up.

Then, Hassan asked Myrow to read from an Aug. 10 set of session notes, in which Hassan said "I have to deal with an Iron Curtain. She doesn't want to hear about her shortcomings."

 

1:19 a.m. Now that the notes from David Myrow's sessions from Hassan and Aasiya have been entered into evidence, Hassan's questioning and Myrow's testimony have picked up pace.

Hassan asked the family therapist about one note from a session with the Hassans, and questioned whether the notes detail a discussion of a vasectomy for Hassan and whether the couple would have another child.

The note indicates that Aasiya got pregnant, after taking steps not to get pregnant, and later miscarried following a physical confrontation or confrontations of some kind, between the Hassans. It also refers to an abortion that Aasiya previously had. 

Myrow then quoted from Hassan's words in the session, when he said that he had trouble being heard and making his opinion known in the marriage. Hassan had recalled to Myrow Aasiya's purported put-down that he was nothing more than "a sperm donor."

Myrow then testified, again reading from his session notes, that Hassan told the therapist about arguments the couple into on a trip to Canada to visit a Hassan cousin.

 

1:11 p.m. The testimony of David Myrow, the Hassan family therapist, under questioning from Hassan continues to move at a glacial pace.

Hassan has now won Franczyk's approal to enter Myrow's notes from his meetings with the Hassans into evidence, allowing Hassan to ask Myrow specific questions about the notes and to read from them if necessary.

The notes were entered into evidence following a few minutes of consultation among prosecutors Colleen Curtin Gable and Paul Bonanno and Hassan's legal advisers Jeremy Schwartz and Elizabeth Bruce.

 

1:03 p.m. Hassan, who appears to be struggling to ask specific questions at time, and there are pauses between the ends of David Myrow's answers and the beginning of the next question as Hassan consults his legal adviser Jeremy Schwartz.

Franczyk, in response to an objection from the prosecution, reminded Hassan that the family therapist can't be asked to read from a document that isn't in evidence but he can be asked about what happened in a particular session or on a particular day.

Hassan has been referring to "reports" that Myrow produced following his sessions with the Hassans, or Aasiya, while Myrow describes them as "progress notes."

Myrow said the notes are "observations or guesses," and no more.

"They clearly cannot be definitive in any way. They can help paint a picture of what someone is experiencing," Myrow said.

Franczyk has chided Hassan for continuing to ask Myrow to testify about documents --- the notes --- that weren't entered into evidence and is urging him to change his line of questioning. This prompted another short delay in the trial as Hassan regrouped and tried to come up with another approach to his questioning.

 

12:50 p.m. The testimony of David Myrow, a family therapist who treated Aasiya and Hassan, has begun slowly.

In response to one question from Hassan, Myrow expressed concern that the answer would reveal privileged information about Aasiya. Franczyk, however, noted that Aasiya is dead and reminded Myrow that he had previously ruled that Myrow could testify about his treatment of and his interactions with Hassan and his wife.

Franczyk also concurred with Myrow that he is here as a "fact" witness and not an "expert" witness.

Myrow said Hassan initially called him on June 28, 2007.

But Hassan told Myrow there was an earlier e-mail, from Hassan, and he asked Myrow to read it to refresh his memory. Myrow now concedes there was an earlier e-mail from Hassan from March 7, 2007, seeking Myrow's assistance.

Myrow also talked about what he does to help married couples in his practice, including improving their communication skills.

"I help people find better ways to communicate with each other and understand each other," Myrow said, in response to Hassan's question.

 

12:40 p.m. This is the 13th day of the Hassan trial, and we will hear from the sixth and final witness for the defense. His name is David Myrow, and he is a family therapist who met with the Hassans. He is the only witness expected to testify today.

Myrow has taken the stand and the jury has returned to the courtroom. Myrow is being questioned by Hassan, who is asking him about his family therapy practice.

Nine jurors are wearing Sabres jerseys, sweatshirts or shirts. There are only three members of the public attending the trial, the lowest number yet for the trial.

 

Read News Staff Reporter Sandra Tan's account of Day 12 of the trial in "Expert, called by Hassan, hurts defense."

See The News' entire coverage of the Hassan case, including video and audio clips, on the Mo Hassan case topics page.

--Stephen T. Watson

 

 

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