Psychiatric Defense Likely in NY Wife Beheading

September 18, 2009 - 5:23 PM
A man accused of beheading his wife at the television station they founded to counter stereotypes of Muslims is likely to claim emotional distress was behind the killing in hopes of avoiding a murder conviction.
Buffalo, N.Y. (AP) - A man accused of beheading his wife at the television station they founded to counter stereotypes of Muslims is likely to claim emotional distress was behind the killing in hopes of avoiding a murder conviction.
 
Muzzammil Hassan, 45, is scheduled to be tried in January on a charge of second-degree murder in the death of 37-year-old Aasiya Hassan. A psychiatric defense would allow jurors to find him guilty of a lesser charge of manslaughter, according to Hassan's attorney, who made his plans known during a pretrial conference Friday.
 
"Extreme emotional disturbance is not an insanity defense," attorney James Harrington said afterward. "It's related to the state of mind of the person at the time."
 
Muzzammil Hassan had been served with divorce papers a week before his wife's body was found stabbed and decapitated at the offices of Bridges TV in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park, where the couple also lived. Hassan was arrested after walking into the Orchard Park police station Feb. 12 and telling officers his wife was dead.
 
Assistant District Attorney Colleen Curtin Gable has said the prosecution's case would be built on alleged admissions, forensic evidence and "strong motive evidence."
 
On Friday, she asked Erie County Judge Thomas Franczyk to bar the defense from introducing psychiatric evidence, saying Harrington had taken months longer than he should have to reveal his trial strategy.
 
Franczyk put off ruling on the prosecutor's request after Harrington said funds for psychiatric testing were being held up by civil actions surrounding Aasiya Hassan's estate. Muzzammil Hassan's assets have been frozen while the civil matters, including a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of the couple's two young children, are negotiated.
 
Muzzammil Hassan has two other children from a previous marriage.
 
If convicted of second-degree murder, he could be given a life prison sentence. The sentence for first-degree manslaughter is up to 25 years.
 
The Pakistani-born Hassans started the Bridges TV network in 2004, saying they wanted to counter negative stereotypes and media portrayals of Muslims and provide programming for the growing Muslim-American population.