A Jordanian immigrant, Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan, was found guilty of capital murder today by a jury of his peers in Houston. The verdict was returned after just 35 minutes of deliberation by the jury. Irsan was found guilty of murdering his son-in-law and his daughter's friend. Flouting the advice of his attorneys, Irsan gave rambling statements from the stand on Wednesday, claiming he had nothing to do with the death of son-in-law, Coty Beavers (28), and Gelareh Bagherzadeh (30), and Iranian student and friend of his daughter Nesreen. The two young people were murdered on separate occasions in 2012. Bagherzadeh was studying molecular biology at the University of Texas MD Anderson cancer center.

On the stand, Irsan answered questions posed by defense counsel. Saying that he is a devout Muslim, he claimed that he wanted his daughters to place their focus on education, not boyfriends. "We're Muslims. It's very important that a girl is a virgin before marriage," he explained during questioning. Both Irsan and his attorneys tried to explain his attitude as that of an overprotective father. Daughter Nesreen is a convert to Christianity.

"I told them never to let your hormones control your future, you control your hormones," Irsan said.

When he was asked about his involvement with the deaths, Irsan testified, "No, no, I have nothing to do with that." Prosecutors said during the trial that Irsan was so strict in his interpretation of Islam that he concluded that he considered it a dishonor for his daughter Nesreen to marry Beavers, a Christian. 

Irsan had four children with his first wife, who he married in the 1980s. He then returned to Jordan in the 1990s, where he married a second woman who was just 15 years old at the time. They had eight children together. The second wife is also charged with murder. She testified against Irsan during the trial. Admitting his bigamy, he said, "In my country, I am allowed to have two wives."

During the trial, Irsan testified that after Nesreen left the family home to live with Beavers before their marriage, he stalked them a number of times. He also spoke with Beavers’ twin brother and mother. He insisted that he was not responsible for slashing Beavers’ tires. Testimony in the trial also revealed that Irsan tried to have another daughter murdered after she married a man who he disapproved. Prosecutors said that Irsan wanted to hurt his second wife because he believed she was unfaithful. 

During the trial Irsan shouted at the prosecutors, calling the “evil” and “devils.” “Those prosecutors are devils,” he told a bailiff on Tuesday. “They want my life. I need to defend myself. The prosecutors are evil.” Members of the jury expressed fear of the 60-year-old Irsan and his mental state. District Judge Jan Krocker then issued an unusual warning to both prosecutors and defense attorneys about the jurors’ fears. During the trial, Irsan stared down prosecutor Marie Primm and made threatening gestures.

This is the first death-penalty trial in Harris County, Texas, this year.

Prosecutors brought a wealth of detail to the trial that detailed Irsan’s sadism. For example, prosecutors said that he frequently disciplined his 12 children by tying them to a board and then beating them in the head with his cane. Irsan used his cane to beat a daughter who had cerebral palsy.

Irsan’s son, Nader Irsan, 20, said that his brother Nasim confessed to shooting Beavers. “He admitted that he killed, and I quote, ‘the Beavers guy,’” Nader Irsan told the jury. “I told him to stop talking.” Nasim’s wife, Shmou Alrawabdeh, testified that she was with her husband and son when they committed both shootings in 2012.  Alrawabdeh will pead guilty to aggravated kidnapping and her sentence will be capped at time served. The 24-year-old Nasim Irsan is confined the Harris County Jail on a charge of capital murder and is not expected to testify.



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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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