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Hassan was 'out of control' in slaying of wife, judge told

Muzzammil S. "Mo" Hassan claims he was emotionally out of control when he killed his wife days after she began divorce proceedings, his lawyer told Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk Friday.

But if Hassan's lawyers delay the start of the trial by failing to tell prosecutors whether they plan on pursuing an insanity defense, the judge said he might consider barring such a defense.

Hassan, 44, who along with his wife, Aasiya Zubair Hassan, 37, founded Orchard Park's Muslim-oriented Bridges cable television station, has been jailed since he turned himself in to police an hour after he allegedly beheaded her last Feb. 12 in their television studio.

James P. Harrington, Hassan's attorney, told the judge he has hired a psychiatrist who has yet to complete his examination of Hassan concerning his mental state the night of the slaying of his estranged wife.

The defense attorney said he also has been hindered by the ongoing Erie County Surrogate's Court fight over Aasiya Hassan's estate.

Harrington said Erie County Surrogate Barbara Howe has frozen much of his client's financial assets pending a resolution of the estate case, which he hopes can be resolved shortly.

Franczyk told Harrington he understands the defense attorney's predicament, but he warned that if the estate case is not quickly resolved, he would grant the prosecution demand to bar use of an extreme emotional disturbance defense in the murder trial.

Under that defense, a jury or a judge sitting in a nonjury trial can reject the claim that a defendant was emotionally out of control and convict him of murder.

But if the defense is accepted, the judge or jury could at most find the Hassan guilty of first-degree manslaughter, carrying a prison term of up to 25 years. Use of the defense bars the acquittal of a defendant because it involves an admission of taking the life of the victim.

Prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable complained that Harrington has stalled for the last six months on disclosing the nature of his planned defense.

She said the defense claim of Hassan's being somehow emotionally out of control when he killed his wife has prevented prosecutors from hiring a psychiatric expert who can rebut the defense claims.

Hassan, wearing the same tan business suit he has worn for all court proceedings in the case, did not speak during Friday's court session.

Franczyk scheduled further proceedings in the murder case for Oct. 30.

Aasiya Hassan reportedly had filed for divorce and obtained a court order of protection against Hassan about a week before she was killed.

Orchard Park police have said they had to handle a number of domestic incidents at the couple's Big Tree Road home in recent years.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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