BUFFALO, New York (Reuters) - A jury in western New York deliberated for only an hour on Monday before finding a television producer, who ran a cable studio designed to promote understanding of his Muslim culture, guilty of beheading his wife.
Muzzammil Hassan used two hunting knives to kill Aasiya Hassan on Feb 12, 2009, six days after she filed for divorce, prosecutors said.
Hassan claimed during the trial that he was a battered spouse in fear for his own life. Hassan, 46, acted as his own attorney.
Aasiya Hassan, 37, and the mother of two, was found stabbed and decapitated at the Bridges TV offices in Orchard Park, a suburb of Buffalo.
The couple launched Bridges TV in 2004 with a mission to show Muslims in a positive light.
The slaying was a “final, brutal and fatal act of control and domination,” prosecutor Colleen Curtin-Gable said during her nearly two hour-long summation on Monday.
“She may well have been conscious when he began cutting off her head, and he’s talking about his hurt and pain,” she said.
The couple was married for nine years.
The jury began deliberating midafternoon in the Erie County, New York Court and returned the guilty verdict an hour later.
“I think they were obviously paying attention with the speed they came back with a verdict,” Curtin-Gable said afterward.
Found guilty of second-degree murder, Hassan faces a minimum of 15 years to life in prison. A sentencing date was not set.
In his closing argument, Hassan said he was a victim of the legal system, medical profession, child protective services and others that do not give men the benefit of the doubt and do not see men as innocent before being proven guilty.
“The prosecution has never asked the question ‘Who started it?’” he said. “That is the core question that needs to be answered.”
Hassan compared himself to former South African President Nelson Mandela, the late U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi — all of whom he said were driven to fight oppressive systems and ideologies.
During the 13 days of trial testimony, the jury saw photographs of the victim’s decapitated body and grainy surveillance footage showing Hassan waiting for his wife in a dark hallway of their studio as she was arriving to bring him clean laundry.
He stabbed her more than 40 times with two knives he bought about an hour earlier at a Wal-Mart store, evidence showed.
Reporting by Neale Gulley in Buffalo; editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune