DOES THIS SOUND TO YOU LIKE ABSENCE OF “MALICE AFORETHOUGHT” AND ABSENCE OF “INTENT TO DO INJURY”? I DIDN’T THINK SO.
Man-slaugh-ter: “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought.” – The Random House Dictionary, 2009
man-slaugh-ter: “the unlawful killing of one human by another without express or implied intent to do injury.” – The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fourth edition, 2009
man-slaugh-ter: “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice – compare HOMICIDE, MURDER ” – Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law, 1996
“Words mean things,” Rush Limbaugh likes to say. Well, if the word manslaughter means anything at all, why would a court in the state of New York – where English presumably is still spoken and understood – accept a plea of manslaughter from Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan?
Hassan, if you remember, is the Bridges TV founder charged with the decapitation death of his wife, Aasiya Zabair Hassan, in his upscale suburban Buffalo office last February, where she was found with three dozen stab wounds to her body and her head sawed off with a steak knife.
Hassan turned himself in the same day, confessed to the crime and reportedly told police he had decapitated Aasiya to keep her soul from entering paradise. (This belief was later confirmed by ritual-murder expert Dr. Dawn Pearlmutter in an interview with Bill O’Reilly, as referenced in an article by Islam expert Dr. Phyllis Chesler. Dr. Pearlmutter explained that beheadings are highly symbolic and always about “restoring honor” or “purity” to the beheader.)
But that didn’t stop Hassan’s defense attorney, James Harrington, from announcing at a pretrial conference Sept. 18 that he would present a “psychiatric defense” based on “emotional distress.” This would make possible a conviction of manslaughter rather than second degree murder, sticking the alleged monster away for up to 25 years rather than for life. Makes you wonder what a person has to do in New York to get charged with first degree murder, doesn’t it?
Assistant District Attorney Colleen Curtin Gable isn’t buying it, though, and asked Erie County Judge Thomas Franczyk to bar the defense from introducing psychiatric evidence. The prosecution’s case will be built on alleged admissions, forensic evidence and “strong motive evidence,” she said.
Even the National Organization for Women, which rarely comments on Shariah-style disposal of family members, couldn’t ignore a crime this blatant. “This was apparently a terroristic version of honor killing, a murder rooted in cultural notions about women’s subordination to men,” New York State NOW President Marcia Pappas stated.
Muslim community organizer and former NBC news editor Zerqa Abid blogged about Hassan a few days after his arrest.
“The fact that Muzzammil was married to my first cousin before marrying the victim still horrifies us,” she wrote. “Ms. Zubair was his third wife. Both of his earlier wives filed divorce on the same grounds of severe domestic violence and abuses. My cousin lived with him for only a year. Yet, it took her several years to get rid of the fear of living with a man in marriage. He was known as violent and abusive in the community.”
Shortly after the crime, Doug Hagmann, director of the Northeast Intelligence Network, was granted an interview with a police source on condition of anonymity.
“It was all about honor, and the dishonor she [the victim] was bringing upon him and his family,” Hagmann’s source said. “There was definitely a cultural if not a religious aspect to these incidents. There were numerous calls to police, many made by the victim, some on behalf of the victim, because of domestic violence. There were indications of physical abuse. Each time, the victim refused to file charges against her husband.”
Does this sound to you like absence of “malice aforethought” and “intent to do injury”? I didn’t think so.
Once I was tasked with researching inmate records by a state Department of Corrections, in a state not so very different from yours or mine. The objective was to ascertain how much of the sentence the average felon actually serves behind bars, as opposed to how much gets written off for parole, good behavior, or any number of other reasons. The statistics were compiled from all prison records in that state over a 10-year period. The stats were not broken down by type of felony or number of prior offenses, and the department had no preconceived agenda or idea of what it might find. It just wanted to know the answer.
The numbers, when finally collected and averaged, disappointed all of us working on the project. The average amount of time served turned out to be just under a third of the time to which the felons originally had been sentenced. That means that in Hassan’s case, even if he received the maximum sentence of 25 years for manslaughter, he would stand a good chance of having to serve only eight.
Eight years for cutting off your wife’s head? People get more time than that for tax evasion and possession of marijuana. Emotional distress? Yes, I imagine Mrs. Hassan must have experienced quite a lot of emotional distress, but it’s the killer’s distress – not the victim’s – that Harrington wants us to focus on. If he gets his way, when the case goes to trial in January that’s what the jury will have to do. And “manslaughter,” another perfectly good English word that used to mean something, will have been redefined for the generations that follow.
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