A jury in Houston adjourned on Monday as it came to an end of its deliberations over the sentencing of Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan -- a Muslim immigrant who was convicted last month of the “honor killing” of his son-in-law and his daughter's close friend. The jury will return on Tuesday morning to weigh a decision whether to sentence Irsan to death. Irsan’s daughter had converted to Christianity, an act that under Islam’s sharia law calls for death.

Jurors heard heart-wrenching testimony for two weeks from Irsan’s first wife and his own children while prosecutors described his monstrous actions. On July 26, jurors needed only 35 minutes to find Irsan, 60, guilty of the 2012 murder of son-in-law Coty Beavers and his daughter’s friend, Gelareh Bagherzadeh, 30. Prosecutors told the jury on Monday: "There are some people in this world that are inherently dangerous and always will be," and added, “Ali Irsan is one of those people." 

During their presentation to the jury, prosecutors also showed terrifying photos taken at the scene where they say Irsan killed another son-in-law years ago, supposedly in self-defense. Reflecting on Irsan’s immigrant background, the prosecutors said, "It's important that you send a message. You can't come here, and commit three murders in cold blood, in the name of honor."

For their part, Irsan’s attorneys tried to introduce explanations for their client’s behavior, based in his Jordanian Muslim heritage. Pleading for a life sentence, defense attorney Rudy Duarte said,  "How can you sentence a person to death if you don't understand a person's culture or background or how they were raised," defense attorneys said. Quoting the Bible and the Koran, defense attorneys said, "What greater honor as a radical extremist Muslim, if he is to be sentenced to death." The attorneys, said, "You have the ability to deny that honor. You have the ability to deny martyrdom." They added, "The man's lost everything, there's no need to kill him." 

Special prosecutor Anna Emmons told the jury in the Harris County courtroom, “His evil is real, and it is scary,” adding during her closing arguments, “He will lie, cheat, steal manipulate, abuse, torture, stalk and kill to get what he wants.”

Defense attorney Duarte argued that the the death penalty is both “ethically and morally wrong.” He said, “It is an attack on all human dignity, everywhere. In a modern society, the death penalty is not necessary.”
 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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