Mo Hassan Trial: Hassan Represents Himself in Monday's Proceedings | News
BUFFALO, NY - On Day 4 in the Mo Hassan, the Judge has decided that the defendant can act as his own attorney. This revelation came after lawyers on both sides met with the Judge behind closed doors.
WEB EXTRA: Hassan Trial Reporter's Notebook
After the meeting, Defense attorney Jeremy Schwartz asked the court to grant Hassan's request to act as lead attorney. "Our differences are too great for me to go on in this matter," said Schwartz.
Judge Thomas Franczyk says the "bottom line is he does have the right to steer his own ship, even if he is steering it into an iceberg." Reluctantly, I am going to grant Mr. Hassan's wish to represent himself."
Hassan was warned that if he doesn't follow procedure and fails to hold his composure, the Judge reserves the right to reappoint Mr. Schwartz as lead attorney.
Judge Franczyk acknowledged fundamental strategic differences between the defendant and his attorney. Over the weekend, the Judge says he had a chance to review the requests made last week. "Case studies do say that the defendant has the right to counsel of his choice, even if that counsel is himself," said the Judge. He added that the court has to be aware of the "wily defendant" who may be trying to delay and manipulate the process.
Judge Franczyk says Hassan appears to be "looking for a mouthpiece that will do exactly as he says."
Hassan was escorted out of the courtroom on Thursday after his request to defend himself was denied. Today, he is present in the courtroom.
The Judge asked Hassan, "can I trust that there won't be anymore picking up your football and threatening to go home if there is a ruling that you don't like?"
It appears Hassan is not foreign to this process. The Judge said in 2008, he actively participated in a family court matter.
Before jurors were brought into the courtroom for the first time today, Hassan asked to address the Judge on a matter which he calls "sensitive."
As for the defense attorney, the Judge told him "your role has now been relegated to a relationship of silent partner."
Jurors are now in the courtroom. They are being told about the change in representation on the defense side.
The first witness on Day Four is the current General Manager of Bridges TV, Hunaid Baliwala. The 28-year-old is originally from Los Angeles, but grew up in Dubai and Los Angeles. Baliwala worked as Mo Hassan's office assistant and has known Hassan since May 2005. Baliwala worked with Aasiya at the 7-11 store that the couple once owned in Orchard Park.
Baliwala was in charge of having the surveillance system installed at Bridges TV. It would capture an image every five seconds, according to the witness.
Now that Hassan is acting as his own attorney, when prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable attempted to show him an exhibit, he didn't even glance at what was being shown.
Baliwala was at the television station when Mo Hassan was served with divorce papers in 2009. He says Hassan quickly packed up and left. He also recalled a week later how the couple spent extended time periods in a conference room.
The day of the murder, Baliwala left early for an appointment and he says Hassan told him he could have the rest of the day off and go from his appointment to school. Later that day he learned from police that Aasiya was murdered.
Baliwala is the first witness to be cross examined by Mo Hassan. Hassan refers to himself in the third person, by saying, "you have known Mo and Aasiya Hassan for some time haven't you?" He continues to ask questions in a calm manner.
Soon things changed in the courtroom as prosecutor Curtin Gable raised objections. Hassan told her to "calm down" and later asked the Judge to instruct Curtin Gable not to point fingers at him. The judge then pointed at Hassan and told him "next question".
Hassan asked the witness, "Do you recall in the hallway Aasiya saying, in your presence, I will put a knife through your heart as you sleep?," Baliwala answered no.
The second witness called is Orchard Park Police officer Joseph Kadi. He is testifying about the day he walked into the television station and found Aasiya Kadi on her back, but her head was missing. He also identifies a piece of the jacket that the victim was wearing.
One of the first questions Hassan asked the officer during cross examination was, "we served you a lot of free coffee?" The officer responded by saying "no." Later he asked the officer if he knew "Mo and Aasiya's home phone number," Officer Kadi said "no," and Hassan said, "well I do." His questions appear to be all over the board.
Hassan then asked the officer about several police reports his late wife filed with department. "How come you didn't get information from Mr. Hassan's perspective?," the defendant asked. "Did you at any point try to understand Mr. Hassan's side of the story?," he continued. "Did you ever ask him his side of the story?" Officer Kadi said "no." Hassan then asked "is that good police work?," and the prosecution quickly objected.
There was a brief recess following Officer Kadi's testimony. The jury was led out of the courtroom. Court has resumed, but the jury has not returned yet. The Prosecution wants to submit pictures into evidence, but a few were objected to by the defense. With the jury out of the court room, the prosecution asks to discuss the pictures and talk it out with the judge to resolve issues going forward with the next witnesses. Hassan objects. He says he "thinks the jury has seen enough blood and it's all cumulative."
The prosecution argues that the photographs show a particular portion of the floor where the beheading took place, and that it show cuts on the floor, nature of the marks in those photographs can't be shown any other way. Hassan says it's just to inflame the jury and show more blood and gore.
The jury is back in the courtroom. The judge says the prosecution can show the jury the pictures, but with the "wound" covered.
The Prosecution is now calling Detective John Payne with the Orchard Park Police Department to the stand.
Detective Payne testifies that he saw a minivan running in the parking lot of Bridges TV when he arrived there on 2.12.2009.
Detective Payne says when he walked in the first door, into a breezeway, he saw the torso on the fllor. He could also see a trail of blood to another body part, a head, and it was about four-feet away.
Detective Payne says he found two knives in the "slop sink" of the bathroom at Bridges TV and that he saw a "red substance" and "black hair" on the knives. He also discovered a man's shirt at the station and that there was a plastic bag of clothing laying next to Aasiya's beheaded torso.
2 On Your Side reporter Marissa Bailey, who is in the courtroom, says Hassan is watching and taking notes during the prosecution's questioning of Detective Payne. He is leaning over to Schwartz once in awhile. She also says the jury seems interested, but tired.
Prosecution shows Detective Payne pictures of the crime scene and asks him if he can see Aasiya's hands, and if she has a weapon in her hands and asks about items found in her pocket. The Defense had been trying to show that Aasiya had a knife on her the day Mo Hassan killed her.
The jury now seeing the first shot of Aasiya's body in the hallway where she was murdered. Marissa Bailey says it is very graphic, even though the wound is covered. Aasiya was wearing a purple jacket, jeans and white sneakers. Her hands where spread out to each side, and blood was everywhere.
The prosecution has Det. Payne explaining items in an evidence bag. Detective Payne says inside the bag that Aasiya had was a copy of the Koran, a CPAP machine, a set of keys, some clothes, among other things. The Prosecution is now going through boxes containing evidence from the scene. Inside nine pairs of socks, three polo shirts, nine pairs of white jockey shorts,(one pair with a small blood splatter found in the Toys R Us bag found next to the victim), a white bathrobe with blood stained (also found in Toys R Us bag), 14 white cotton shirts, all inside the bag found next to Aasiya's body.
Detective Payne tells the prosecution that he recovered all of the cameras, DVR system and a monitor from the scene on the day of the murder. The DVR was sent to the Erie County Crime lab to be analyzed.
The Prosecution shows still pictures from the surveillance video the night of the murder. The first pic shows Mo hassan carrying a black bag entering Bridges TV. He was wearing a winter coat carrying a black bag.
The third picture shown shows Hassan in the secretary's office. The ninth picture shows Mo Hassan reaching around the outside door of Bridges TV and doing something to the door handle
The 10th picture shows Mo Hassan back inside the office, you can see a figure standing in front of lit window. The next few pictures show Aasiya entering Bridges TV.
Another picture shows Mo Hassan standing behind a door in an office with the lights on in the room.
The Prosecution is showing pictures that show Hassan in an office and Aasiya's head in the office.
Testimony has wrapped up for today. The prosecution will still question Detective Payne in the morning.
Cameras are not allowed in the courtroom, but 2 On Your Side's Pete Gallivan and Marissa Bailey are providing minute-by-minute updates throughout the day.
On Thursday, Hassan said he wanted to fire his attorney, Jeremy Schwartz, claiming he is "completely ineffective counsel."
Hassan was escorted from the courtroom in handcuffs and watched the court proceedings for a holding room nearby.
On day three of testimony, jurors heard from a physician's assistant who treated Aasiya Hassan, a former employee of Bridges television station, and the Wal-Mart employee who sold Mo Hassan two hunting knives.