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Punishment phase resumes in Houston ‘honor killings’ death penalty trial

July 30, 2018

The capital murder trial of a Jordanian immigrant in Houston is scheduled to continue Monday with investigators and family piecing together a lifetime of “bad acts” in an effort to get jurors to sentence him to death.

Last week, it took a Harris County jury a little more than a half-hour on Thursday to find 60-year-old Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan guilty of killing his daughter’s Christian husband and her close friend who supported the marriage.

Prosecutors characterized Irsan as a “radical extremist Muslim,” and told the jury his motive for the double killings was to restore the family honor after a daughter ran away from the family compound, converted to Christianity and married a Christian man.

Jurors also heard about some of Irsan’s previous bad acts, including the 1999 fatal shooting of a different son-in-law of whom he did not approve.

In September 1999, Irsan killed 29-year-old Amjad Alidam with a 12-gauge shotgun in east Montgomery County, prosecutors said. At the time, he claimed his son-in-law was abusing his daughter and had threatened him and his family.

Prosecutors have said they will produce evidence that proves the slaying was a murder.

Jurors also heard that Irsan was convicted of defrauding the government of almost $300,000, including Medicare and social security benefits of more than $200,000, food stamps and fraudulent benefits for his wife.

He also allegedly defrauded his mosque of more than $10,000 in charity.

Irsan’s defense team have argued that someone else, some unknown assailants, committed the two murders in 2012.

After five weeks of trial, Irsan was convicted of killing Coty Beavers, the 28-year-old husband of his daughter, Nesreen, at the couple’s northwest Harris County apartment in November 2012. Prosecutors said he was enraged when she converted to Christianity and married a Christian man.

The first honor killing took place in January 2012 , when Nesreen’s close friend, a medical researcher and Iranian activist named Gelareh Bagherzadeh, 30, was shot to death outside her parents home in the Galleria area.

The trial, in state District Judge Jan Krocker’s court, is expected to last several more weeks.

Brian Rogers covers Houston crime and courts. You can email him at brian.rogers@chron.com and follow him on Twitter at @brianjrogers.

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