Faleh Almaleki's attorney had but three words to say when the Maricopa County Superior Court judge asked him to call his first witness late this morning.
"The defense rests," assistant public defender Jeffrey Kirchler muttered.
It meant that Almaleki, the 50-year-old Glendale man accused of murdering his daughter Noor and severely injuring another woman in an October 2009 hit-and-run, would not be taking the witness stand in this closely watched case.
That decision came as little surprise to those who have been looking in on what has become known as Maricopa County's "honor killing" case, so called because Iraqi native Almaleki ran down his first-born and her friend allegedly because Noor had been "disrespecting" the family by adopting a "Western" lifestyle--living with a young man, getting a tattoo, and disregarding his dictates.
To use a non-Latin term, Mr. Almaleki is dead meat, with the best he can hope for being a manslaughter conviction for causing Noor's death instead of the more-serious first- or second-degree murder options before the jury.
Even then, Almaleki also is sure to be convicted of several other serious felonies, including the attempted murder or aggravated assault of Noor's friend, Amal Khalaf, and the undisputed fact that he sped away from the scene (a Peoria parking lot) and fled to England before being caught and extradited.
In opening statements about a month ago, Almaleki's defense attorneys had suggested that jurors would hear from their client's wife, Seham, the mother of seven (including Noor). But her testimony never emerged.
Prosecutor Laura Reckart told jurors in her closing argument a few hours ago that the evidence "proves way beyond a reasonable doubt [that Almaleki's intent] was to erase Noor and Amal from his life and from this Earth."
She said Faleh Almaleki's "law was above all others. The fact that Noor was an adult was of no consequence to him."
Defense attorney Kirchler showed jurors a blown-up photograph of a newborn's hand gripping the index finger of an adult male, ostensibly taken of Noor and her father's shortly after her birth.
"From the moment he held her hand, everything changed," Kirchler said, a touching sentiment that begged the logical question of what Noor possibly could have done two decades after that photo to merit being crushed by a Jeep Cherokee driven by father.
Kirchler tried to foist some of the blame on Khalaf, the surviving victim of Almaleki's fatal wrath, noting that Noor had been living with Khalaf and her son -- "A bad family," he said -- to his client's dismay.
"As a father, you want your child to be good, to have manners, to have values," the attorney said, not adding that, failing to achieve those virtues by the age of 20 (if indeed she didn't) did not mandate a death sentence.
The jury got the case late this afternoon, but soon broke for the evening and will begin deliberations in earnest tomorrow morning.
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For sure, this trial has lacked the narrative tension of a good whodunit, and the lack of any defense presentation other than the lame (hey, Kirchler didn't have jack to work with) closing took the steam out of any real drama that may have lingered in Judge Roland Steinle's courtroom.
We'll get back to you tomorrow with the verdict.