In his first show of temper since being allowed to serve as his own lawyer early last week, Muzzammil "Mo" Hassan threatened to abandon his own murder trial if Erie County Court Judge Thomas P. Franczyk did not permit a large number of his e-mails to be entered as evidence right away.
Hassan was in the midst of pleading and arguing with the judge while media representatives and members of the public were still being seated after a nearly hourlong wait in the corridor Monday afternoon.
"Say no more until you take the stand," Franzcyk firmly reprimanded the defendant.
"May I leave, your honor?" he responded.
Franczyk told Hassan in stark terms that should he leave the courtroom, his former defense lawyer and current legal adviser, Jeremy Schwartz, would resume his place as the defense lawyer. Hassan would give up any right to serve as his own lawyer and offer narrative testimony.
"If you want to just play by your rules, you are welcome to leave," the judge said.
Hassan then reluctantly agreed to take the stand and continue his third day of testimony. It was the ninth day of trial for Hassan, who is charged with stabbing and beheading his wife, Aasiya, on Feb. 12, 2009, at their Bridges TV studio in Orchard Park.
He talked for nearly two hours as he painstakingly recounted events from August 2007 to January 2008.
Among the highlights of his testimony Monday:
*Hassan rebutted testimony by the family baby sitter, Jennifer Greer, that Hassan deliberately ran her off the road in October 2007 when she was driving Aasiya to the airport on Route 219 in rush-hour traffic, with their two young children sitting in the back seat.
He said he came upon Greer's car by happenstance and was surprised to see the children in the back seat. He said he worried that Aasiya might be taking the children on a trip without telling him. "I passed their car," he said. "I slowed down and waved at Aasiya because I was trying to call her, but her cell phone was off."
He said his car never left his lane. He produced documents showing the reckless driving charges against him were dismissed, he stated.
*He recalled how we went on a monthlong trip abroad from November to December 2007 and bought many presents for his children but came home and was met with a stay-away order of protection from Aasiya.
He was so anguished by his wife's actions, he said, that he took 10 sleeping pills in his hotel room. "That's the closest I came to committing suicide," he said.
*During the three-month period when Hassan was under the stay-away order, he said Aasiya still came to see him every day. He said he spent that time talking with her at length about her abusive nature, to help her break out of her denial and "get in touch with reality."
He likened her abusive behavior to an "evil dragon" and to the horrific alien that would burst forth from the chests of humans in the "Alien" movies.
"I was trying to do the best I could with the limited knowledge I had to bring healing to this marriage," he said.
In divorce papers, Aasiya stated she was still required to prepare and deliver Hassan's dinner each night and that he spent his time with her talking about her personality flaws.
*Contrary to statements by Aasiya in her divorce papers that her husband forced her to give him her e-mail password so he could hack into her account and send out e-mails pretending to be her, Hassan said she voluntarily gave him her password to help her with her business school homework.
After the jury was dismissed, Hassan succeed in subpoenaing the prosecution's star psychiatric expert to testify as a defense witness. Franczyk noted that the witness, Gary Horwitz, is prepared to testify that Hassan does not suffer from battered-spouse syndrome and that his testimony is likely to hurt Hassan's defense.
The judge also warned Hassan that if Horwitz is called as a defense witness, Hassan is responsible for paying him and may not "impeach him" or question him in the same manner as he would if he were cross-examining him.
Hassan was adamant that Horwitz's report holds information favorable to his cause. "This is my opportunity to exonerate my character," he said.
Franczyk refused to authorize more than half a dozen subpoena requests from Hassan. He did, however, agree to sign nine others, including the subpoena for Horowitz.
He reserved judgment on subpoena requests by Hassan to recall his two older children to the witness stand and to call Courtney Walsh, an assistant dean at the University at Buffalo, where Aasiya was pursuing her master's degree in business administration.
"I've run out of gas," Franczyk concluded, "so we're going to adjourn until tomorrow."