HARRIS COUNTY, TX (The Houston Chronicle) – A Jordanian immigrant was sentenced Tuesday to death for a pair of 2012 “honor killings” that were part of an extensive plot to kill five people, including his daughter, in retribution for her leaving home, converting to Christianity and marrying a Christian.
Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan, 60, slumped slightly when the verdict was read, but did not react otherwise.
The twisted saga that emerged during the trial of intolerance and violent reprisal by the domineering patriarch of an extended family living in a rural Montgomery County compound shocked local residents, and has attracted national and international news coverage since it first unfolded with Irsan’s arrest in 2014.
The lengthy trial, and disturbing testimony during the punishment phase about rapes, drugging, beatings and a previous homicide, left both jurors and family of the victims sniffling and wiping tears.
Meanwhile, the trial judge praised the jury’s verdict.
“Don’t second guess yourselves,” state District Judge Jan Krocker told jurors. “You listened attentively to every detail. It was the right verdict.”
Jurors sat through seven weeks of testimony about Irsan’s rage and desire to “wash his honor in blood,” quickly convicting Irsan of the capital murder of his daughter’s new husband, Coty Beavers, 28, and her best friend, Gelareh Bagherzadeh, 30, an Iranian activist and medical researcher who supporter her choice.
Families of the victims cried, hugged and took pictures together after Irsan was led out of the courtroom in a yellow jail uniform.
“Adios,” one family member said from the gallery.
Almost an hour after the verdict was read, four women and three men from the jury came back to the courtroom to hug the surviving family members of Irsan’s victims.
In tears, they introduced themselves and spoke quietly. They said it was tough decision, but they hope the families can now have peace.
Immediately after Krocker sentenced Irsan to death, he had to sit and listen as Beavers’ mother gave a victim impact statement, from the witness stand, with two of her sons standing next to her.
“On November 12, 2012, Ali Irsan and his family destroyed life as we knew it forever,” said Shirley McCormick. “That was the day they ambushed and murdered Coty, to restore honor to someone who never had any.”
Afterward, Coty Beavers’ twin brother said the family would focus on the remaining suspects: Irsan’s adult son, Nasim, who is charged with capital murder, and his adult daughter, Nadia, who is charged with stalking.
“Honor violence typically involves participation of multiple family members,” said Cory Beavers. “We will continue to pray that everyone culpable in these murders are brought to justice.”
During the trial, some of Irsan’s family testified they lived in fear of daily beatings, including with a length of garden hose and “sticks” like Irsan’s cane and 2-by-4 boards. Two of his sons said that was not true.
One of Irsan’s daughters also testified that he cheered the 9/11 attacks on America and praised Osama bin Laden, and told his children they should volunteer to become suicide bombers.
For eight weeks, prosecutors put on evidence that Irsan had been a violent offender with a history of money grubbing schemes since coming to America in 1979.
“He will lie, cheat, steal manipulate, abuse, torture, stalk and kill to get what he wants,” Emmons said during closing arguments.
She pointed to allegations that he raped his first wife, a blind woman he met in Iowa, then manipulated her into marriage. There were also allegations that he raped his oldest daughter and tried to kill her because she married a man Irsan did not approve of in 1999.
Special prosecutor Marie Primm weaved together more than 20 years of Irsan’s bad acts to sway jurors against letting Irsan serve life without parole in general population in prison.
She reminded the jury that Irsan also killed a different son-in-law in 1999.
Irsan testified that it was in self-defense. Other family members said he blasted Amjad Alidam in the chest with a shotgun because he did not approve of Alidam’s marriage to his oldest daughter, then planted a pistol on the body.