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Hassan tells jurors he aimed to 'save' wife
After his testimony, judge urges him to streamline presentation

Muzzammil Hassan told jurors Friday that his wife, Aasiya, was a headstrong woman who came from a violent family background that left her needy, volatile and craving love and affection.

When he married her after her dogged pursuit of him, he said, he decided he would be the one to provide her all the love and affection she needed. He'd heal her.

"I thought, God, this girl has been through a lot. Nobody has given her unconditional love," Hassan testified. "I started feeling like I would be the savior type of person. I guess some of that was my own arrogance."

As time passed, however, he said he realized his wife would not change for the better no matter how nicely he spoke to her or how often he asked her to get counseling for her "abusive behavior."

Hassan, charged in the multiple stabbing and beheading of his wife in February 2009, spent his second day of narrative testimony describing his wife as a rage-prone and manipulative woman who used police complaints and orders of protection to extract concessions out of him whenever they had major disagreements.

In nearly five hours of testimony, Hassan — who is acting as his own attorney — covered events from September 2006 through August 2007. He also skipped back to 2000 when he and Aasiya were still courting long distance via the Internet and telephone.

At this rate of testimony, Hassan estimated he would be finished with 2008 by the end of Tuesday. At the end of Friday, the judge urged him to "go back to the drawing board" over the weekend and better streamline his presentation.

Erie County Court Judge Thomas P. Franczyk had cautioned him at the very start of the day that if he continues to provide "protracted stream of consciousness" testimony, the effect on the jury will be "stupefying, not edifying."

Hassan, however, seemed undeterred in his calm but glacial recounting of past incidents in his marriage. Given Hassan's unwillingness to heed any such suggestions so far, it seems unlikely that next week will proceed at a much faster pace.

His irritating effect on the judge and the prosecution was obvious on Friday. Jurors' attention also seemed to wander somewhat, though not as much as on Thursday, when they appeared more visibly tired.

In response to Franczyk's support of an early objection by prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable to the defendant's testimony, Hassan said, "Your honor, I thought this is where the whole truth comes out."

Curtin Gable groaned, and Franczyk sent the jury back to the jury room before informing Hassan of his displeasure.

"Do not make comments that suggest that I am trying to suppress the truth," he said.

Noted defense lawyer Paul Cambria praised Franzcyk for his handling of the proceedings, despite the reaction of Curtin Gable, who seems clearly frustrated by the amount of latitude being shown toward Hassan.

"I think the judge deserves an award for his patience," Cambria said.

Cambria, who sat in on the morning proceedings, also was impressed with the amount of information Hassan was able to convey to the jury through his narrative testimony regarding his troubled marriage with his wife.

In this case, he said, Hassan is able to convey far more information to jurors using a narrative format than to have a defense lawyer ask him questions on the witness stand.

"I'm sitting here thinking, 'Gee, if I had to get that in, how would I do it, and how long would it take me?'" Cambria said.

He then whispered some advice to Hassan's legal adviser, Jeremy Schwartz, before leaving.

At the end of Friday's session, Schwartz said he believes Hassan is scoring points with the jury about what he contends was the "escalating" physical, emotional and psychological abuse he suffered at the hands of the victim.

When asked how much longer before Hassan concludes his testimony, Schwartz said, "He's getting closer with every word."

Despite the numerous objections to Hassan's relentless testimony, the prosecution appeared to follow along closely as he recounted his version of events that subsequently led to police complaints, orders of protection against him and medical reports related to alleged abuse of Aasiya.

Among the highlights from the eighth day of Hassan's murder trial:

* The jury heard briefly from defense witness Amy Kiss, a classmate of Hassan's from business school at the University of Rochester. She described Hassan as "studious," "friendly" and "polite" when they were in school together in the 1990s. She also said she had dinner with him and his family in November 2008 and thought his interactions with his family were "normal."

* More of Hassan's subpoenas were challenged. Franczyk also ruled that Hassan could not compel forensic psychologist Ana Cervantes to testify for the defense against her will.

* Though previous testimony has suggested Aasiya miscarried because her husband abused her and sat on her stomach while she was several months pregnant, Hassan suggested that God had simply answered his prayers when his wife miscarried.

"I guess it was just not in my DNA to accept a fifth child," said Hassan, who has also stated he wanted Aasiya to terminate the pregnancy.

While driving to a conference in Chicago, he said, he told God he was not prepared to have another child. When Aasiya miscarried and learned that he'd talked to God about this, he said, she was furious at him.

"You prayed for his death!" he recalled her screaming at him.

* He said his wife and he often argued about her desire to travel to Pakistan every year with their two young children to see her family. This led to very heated arguments, and ultimately reports filed with Orchard Park police.

"Every year, this becomes an annual abuse fest," he said.

On Dec. 30, 2006, the day she and her children were to leave for Pakistan, Aasiya had stated to police that Hassan drove off in the minivan filled with their luggage and didn't return, causing her and her children to miss their flight. Hassan also confiscated everyone's passports.

Hassan said Thursday he only meant to take the car out for a two-minute drive, but when he saw the police car in the driveway, he took off for Rochester and eventually threw his younger children's passports over Niagara Falls.

Hassan said he was gratified when an Orchard Park police officer later told him that as a parent, he was entitled to keep the children's passports and didn't have to return them.

"That made me feel so good," he said. "It just validated me."

Subsequently, he said, Aasiya used threats of prosecution for various abuse offenses to get new passports for her children back in her hands.

* He denied punching Aasiya in the face when she intervened in a physical confrontation he had with his older son, Michael. He said she was elbowed by one of the children by accident, but he still felt guilty for getting involved in a physical fight with his kids.

"This was a low point for me," he said. "I felt horrible."

* On at least three different occasions through mid-2007, Hassan said he had his wife read and/or sign agreements outlining various types of abusive behavior that she was to stop doing. He also said he talked with her constantly about the need for her to get counseling for this behavior.

The trial resumes at 1:50 p.m Monday.

News Staff Reporter Matt Gryta contributed to this report.

stan@buffnews.com

THE TRIAL AT A GLANCE

Day 1: Monster or victim? Opening statements paint conflicting portraits.

Day 2: Children testify Hassan slapped and punched Aasiya.

Day 3: Hassan's request to represent himself is denied: he storms out of court.

Day 4: Judge reverses himself, allows Hassan to act as his own lawyer.

Day 5: Jurors see surveillance video of the attack and beheading.

Day 6: Text messages depict Hassan begging his wife for forgiveness.

Day 7: Hassan says he is the victim of emotional and physical abuse by his wife

Day 8: Still on the stand, Hassan tries to explain away his wife's injuries.

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