HOUSTON (AP) — A Jordanian immigrant was sentenced to death on Tuesday after being convicted in what Texas prosecutors described as the honor killings of his daughter’s American husband and her friend who was an Iranian women’s rights activist.
Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan was found guilty of capital murder last month in the 2012 fatal shootings of his son-in-law, Coty Beavers, and his daughter’s friend, Gelareh Bagherzadeh. The Harris County jury deliberated for just 35 minutes — after five weeks of testimony — before reaching the verdict in Houston.
The same jury deliberated about nine hours before sentencing him to death for the killings, which occurred about 11 months apart. When the jury’s punishment verdict was announced, Irsan slumped slightly.
Families of the victims cried, hugged and took pictures together after Irsan was led out of the courtroom.
Prosecutors alleged that Irsan, a 60-year-old conservative Muslim, became enraged after his daughter married Beavers, a 28-year-old Christian, and converted to Christianity. Investigators said Bagherzadeh had encouraged her friend to marry Beavers.
Irsan’s wife, Shmou Alrawabdeh, testified at trial that her husband tried to “clean his honor” with the killings. She told jurors her husband also intended to kill their daughter, Beavers’ twin brother and Beavers’ mother.
Bagherzadeh was targeted first. Police said Irsan, his wife and their son, Nasim, followed the 30-year-old Bagherzadeh to her parents’ home in January 2012, and that Nasim Irsan shot her in her car. Nasim Irsan is awaiting trial on a capital murder charge.
Beavers and Nesreen Irsan were married in in July 2012.
That November, Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan slipped into Beavers’ unlocked apartment near Houston, waited for his daughter to leave for work, then shot his son-in-law, according to Alrawabdeh, who testified in her husband’s trial as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.
Irsan portrayed himself as a devoted father who became upset after his daughter ran away from home. At trial, he told jurors that he wasn’t involved in the deaths but acknowledged that his daughter had caused his family pain by marrying Beavers.
Nesreen Irsan testified that she had to obtain a protective order to prevent her family from harassing her after she moved out.
Her father, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was sentenced to federal prison in 2015 for scamming the Social Security Administration.
Irsan’s attorneys said they were disappointed in the verdict and noted that it would automatically be appealed.