Houston death penalty trial in alleged “honor killings” begins second week

July 2, 2018 GMT

Testimony against a Montgomery County man facing the death penalty for two alleged “honor killings” is expected Monday from friends and co-workers of a slain Iranian activist, as the unusual capital murder trial enters a second week.

Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan, 60, a Jordanian immigrant and devout Muslim, is accused of killing his daughter’s husband and her best friend because she converted to Christianity and married a Christian.

Special prosecutors told jurors during opening statements last week that Irsan and his son tracked down and shot his daughter Nasreen’s best friend, Gelareh Bagherzadeh, a politically active Iranian medical student in the parking lot of her parents’ Galleria condominium in January 2012.

Prosecutors have also argued that Irsan also gunned down his daughter’s 28-year-old husband, Coty Beavers, in November 2012.

Defense lawyers have said the two homicides are unrelated and the deaths were not part of the same scheme, and Irsan had nothing to do with either killing. If convicted of capital murder, Irsan could face life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

Jurors are expected to hear from friends and colleagues of Bagherzadeh in a trial that is expected to take six to eight weeks in state District Judge Jan Krocker’s court. Special prosecutors are handling the case after Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, citing involvement in the case by a top aide, recused her office from the prosecution.

Last week, the jury heard from police who investigated Bagherzadeh’s death. They also heard from a Department of Public Safety trooper who pulled Irsan over for driving erratically at approximately 12:30 a.m. Jan. 16, 2012, less than an hour after the homicide.

The trooper testified Irsan was racing north of Houston on Interstate 45 at 79 mph with his wife and son when he pulled him over. Irsan said he was speeding because he was diabetic and needed to buy a drink, presumably to address his low blood sugar, the trooper said.

Irsan was let go with a warning because the trooper was assigned to stop motorists suspected of driving under the influence, and Irsan did not appear to be intoxicated.

Other witnesses Friday included several employees at MD Anderson who worked with the defendant’s daughters and declined his “adamant” requests to view the interior of the facilities where his daughters attended.