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Contrasting Accounts In New York Beheading Trial

Justice SystemTelevision IndustryWal-Mart Stores, Inc.Satellite and Cable ServiceSeptember 11, 2001 Attacks

Contrasting images of a former New Yorktelevision executive accused of stabbing and decapitating his wifewere presented on the opening day of his trial Tuesday, withprosecutors calling the attack a final act of domination andcontrol over the woman who was divorcing him. The defense describedthe killing as an act of blind fury by a husband who feared for hisown life.

The second-degree murder trial of Muzzammil Hassan started inErie County Court in Buffalo. The 46-year-old is accused in thedeath of his estranged wife, 37-year-old Aasiya Hassan, two yearsago inside the studios of Bridges TV.

"Only two people know for sure what happened" defense attorneyJeremy Schwartz said.

Hassan is the former president and chief executive of the cablenetwork the Pakistan-born couple founded the station to counternegative images of Muslims after 9/11. Aasiya Hassan was thegeneral manager.

Hassan admits killing his wife in February 2009, six days aftershe filed for divorce. But, he has pleaded not guilty based on hisclaims he was a battered spouse.

Assistant District Attorney Paul Bonanno said evidence andtestimony from the suspect's own children, the victim'sstepchildren, will show it was Aasiya Hassan who was repeatedlybeaten and terrorized.

Hassan, who stands over 6 feet tall, is shown on surveillancevideo testing the sharpness of hunting knives at a Wal-Mart beforebuying two an hour before the killing, Bonanno told the jury. He'sseen again at the darkened TV station where he surprised his wifefrom behind after luring her there to drop off clothes for him, hesaid.

Aasiya Hassan was stabbed more than 40 times as the couple's 4-and 6-year-old children and the suspect's teenage son from aprevious marriage waited in a minivan outside for her to completethe errand on their way to dinner, Bonanno said.

"Then (Hassan) took those knives and he sawed Aasiya's headoff," using so much force that the floor tiles underneath weredamaged, the prosecutor said.

When he emerged from the station, Hassan handed his oldest sonan envelope full of cash and then drove away, stopping first at ahotel to clean up before reporting his wife's death at the OrchardPark police station, Schwartz said.

Police found Aasiya Hassan's body in a hallway, the prosecutorsaid, and her head several feet away, against a wall.

"He killed Aasiya and desecrated her body because six daysearlier, she had dared file for divorce, dared to seek a betterlife for herself and her children. The defendant could not andwould not tolerate that," Bonanno said. Hassan, wearing a darksuit and glasses, maintained a businesslike demeanor, showing noemotion as he jotted notes on a legal pad at the defense table.

"I am not going to tell you that what happened was right,"Schwartz said. "I am not going to tell you that this is somethingthat should or will ever happen again.

"I am not going to tell you that what happened was somehowendorsed by a religion or culture," the defense lawyer said of hisclient's actions, which raised public speculation over whether itmay have been an "honor killing," a slaying by a relative whobelieves the victim has brought shame to the family. Hassan hassaid it was not.

Schwartz described a rocky marriage that the twice-divorcedHassan sought to repair by seeking professional help, only to bepushed "to the breaking point" by his wife's physical andpsychological attacks and calls to police.

"She would make threats to take his children away, threats totake his life," he said. The day she died, Aasiya Hassan forcedher terrified husband at knifepoint to end a friendship with awoman confidante, the defense lawyer said. Hassan had bought thehunting knives for self-defense in response, he said.

In their final encounter, Hassan snapped when he saw AasiyaHassan reach into a coat pocket that had earlier held a kitchenknife, Schwartz said, and killed her "in a blind fury of fear andrage."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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