HAMAD TRIAL | Defense team calls all of its witnesses, Hamad doesn't testify


story tease

4 p.m.

WARREN

Nasser Hamad's defense team has called all of its witnesses in the mitigation phase of Hamad's aggravated murder trial following a break in which Hamad decided not to take the witness stand today.

Judge Ronald Rice of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court is about to send the jurors home for the day after telling the jurors that the mitigation phase is over. They are to return 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Hamad testified just prior to the end of the guilt/innocence phase of the trial Oct. 30.

Over the previous two hours, before the most recent break, two of Hamad's children and his sister testified about Hamad taking care of his three children from the time they were small after he and his wife divorced. A nephew of Hamad's also testified about spending several weeks every summer with the Hamads.

Hamad's girlfriend, Tracy Hendrickson, also testified briefly. It was the second time she took the stand.

Hamad was convicted Oct. 30 of two counts of aggravated murder and six counts of attempted aggravated murder in the deaths of two young men and injuries to three other people who went to Hamad's house on state Route 46 in Howland Feb. 25.

Earlier today, Dr. James Reardon, a Columbus psychologist who evaluated Nasser Hamad in the spring, testified that Hamad was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder at the time of the killings.

1 p.m.

WARREN

Dr. James Reardon, a Columbus psychologist who evaluated Nasser Hamad in the months after Hamad shot to death two young men and injured three others, testified today that Hamad was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder at the time of the killings.

VIDEO: DR. REARDON TESTIFIES ON PTSD

Reardon, who has worked extensively with military veterans during his 40-year career, said the conversations he had with Hamad at the county jail in the spring convinced him that Hamad disassociated from the situation at the point where three young males left their minivan and attacked Hamad near his house.

Hamad had just tackled John Shively, 17, to the ground as Shively and his mother confronted Hamad outside Hamad's front door.

Reardon said the the stress of months worth of fearing a deadly confrontation with members of his girlfriend's family led to a "worst-case situation" in which a group of young males began attacking him.

"Your worst fears just pulled into your driveway," Reardon said. The remarks came during the penalty phase of Hamad's aggravated murder trial.

Reardon said Hamad probably didn't know what PTSD was when Hamad and Reardon met the first time. Reardon said did additional testing of Hamad designed to tell whether Hamad was giving a version of events that would purposely lead to a PTSD diagnosis.

The testing suggested "literally no likelihood he would exaggerate," Reardon said.

The same jury hearing testimony today found Hamad guilty Oct. 30 of two counts of aggravated murder and two counts of attempted aggravated murder in the Feb. 25 confrontation that resulted in the deaths of Joshua Haber, 19, and Joshua Williams, 20, and injuries to April Trent-Vokes, 42, Bryce Hendrickson, 20, and John Shively, 17.

The jury also heard from two witnesses who know Hamad for business reasons and two relatives.

The jury will be asked, possibly as soon as today, whether prosecutors have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the aggravating circumstances of Hamad intentionally killing two people or attempting to kill two or more people outweigh the mitigating factors.

If prosecutors have proven that, the jury must vote for Hamad to get the death penalty.

The jury can chose the death sentence, life in prison without parole or life in prison with parole eligibility after 25 or 30 years.

11:30 a.m.

WARREN

Two business acquaintances and two relatives of Nasser Hamad testified this morning in the penalty phase of his aggravated murder trial after Hamad complained before the hearing about his attorneys.

Charles Richardson knew Hamad and his family because he lived on the same street, Warwick Avenue in Howland Township when Hamad was growing up and also employed him to do various construction and excavating projects for the company Richardson works for, Covelli Properties.

He described Hamad, the youngest of nine children, as being "very shy' as a young boy. But when Hamad did work for him later, he was reliable.

He said Hamad didn't do every type of construction Richardson needed, "But if you need a trench dug, I don't know anybody better."

Richardson said he didn't socialize with Hamad, but knew him to be "very dedicated to [his] children." He said Hamad had been working on a job even the week of the Feb. 25 shootings that resulted in Hamad being convicted Oct. 30 of two counts of aggravated murder and six counts of attempted aggravated murder.

Hamad's demeanor toward sometimes demanding clients was "very kind," and he "never had a problem" with them, Richardson said.

Before the hearings began this morning, Hamad complained to Judge Ronald Rice about his attorneys, but he later said he would allow them to continue to present his case today.

10 a.m.

WARREN

Atty. Robert Dixon is giving an opening statement to jurors in the penalty phase of the Nasser Hamad aggravated murder trial following a delay this morning related to Hamad refusing to speak to two of his attorneys for most of the past week.

Atty. Robert Dixon said Hamad's defense team will present testimony from people who have known Hamad for years and Dr. James Reardon, a psychologist from Columbus who evaluated Hamad in the Trumbull County jail.

"This is not about making excuses for Mr. Hamad," Dixon said of Dr. Reardon's testimony. He will testify about Hamad's good work in the community and being a father and businessman.

Assistant prosecutor Chris Becker gave his opening statement first, saying prosecutors probably won't have a lot of questions of the witnesses Hamad's attorneys will present. Becker said prosecutors will not be presenting any witnesses of their own.

After first listing his complaints about his attorneys to Judge Ronald Rice, Hamad spoke privately with his attorneys and returned to the courtroom this morning to indicate that he will continue with today's penalty phase with his three attorneys.

At about 8:50 before 9 a.m. today, Hamad had a 25-minute conversation with Judge Ronald Rice in the courtroom before jurors came into the courtroom.

Hamad said he had quit talking to two of his attorneys, complaining that evidence he thought should have been given in the guilt/innocence phase of the trial was not given.

On Oct. 30, a jury found Hamad guilty of two counts of aggravated murder and six counts of attempted aggravated murder in the Feb. 25 shooting deaths of two young men and injuring of three other people at his house on state Route 46 in Howland.

Hamad had not stopped talking to Atty. Geoffrey Oglesbee but was not talking to attorneys David Doughten and Robert Dixon, who have handled most of his case so far.

The jury then got nearly a week off because defense witnesses were not available until today.

Hamad killed Joshua Haber, 19, and Joshua Williams, 20, and injured April Trent-Vokes, 42, Bryce Hendrickson, 20, and John Shively, 17, by firing around 18 shots at them following a confrontation in front of Hamad's home Feb. 25.

The five had gone to Hamad's house that Saturday afternoon and parked their minivan by the road with Trent-Vokes and Shively, her son, approaching Hamad in front of the house over Facebook posts Hamad, Shively and Hendrickson had posted earlier that day.

Hamad's defense team of three attorneys will present evidence today of any mitigating factors that they believe should convince the jury that Hamad should not get the death penalty.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the aggravating circumstances of Hamad intentionally killing two people or attempting to kill two or more people outweigh the mitigating factors.

The jury can chose the death sentence, life in prison without parole or life in prison with parole eligibility after 25 or 30 years.

If the jury choses the death penalty, Judge Ronald Rice can affirm that penalty or chose one of the life options if he deems that the aggravating circumstances did not outweigh the mitigating factors.

Jurors may stay past the normal 4:30 p.m. close of the courthouse today to deliberate on Hamad's punishment.

8:50 a.m.

WARREN

Nasser Hamad has spoken privately with his attorneys and has returned to the courtroom to indicate that he will continue with today's penalty phase with his three attorneys, despite his long list of complaints about them.

VIDEO FROM THE COURTROOM

Prosecutors are currently talking with the judge about evidence, and witnesses are apparently about to begin testifying.

At about 8:50 today, Hamad had a 25-minute conversation with Judge Ronald Rice in the courtroom.

Hamad said he had quit talking to two of his attorneys, complaining that evidence he thought should have been given in the guilt/innocence phase of the trial was not given.

On Oct. 30, a jury found him guilty of two counts of aggravated murder and six counts of attempted aggravated murder in the Feb. 25 shooting deaths of two young men and injuring of three other people.

During the conversation with the judge, Hamad asked Judge Rice for more time, but the judge told Hamad this would be a bad time to stop communicating with his attorneys.

Hamad had not stopped talking to Atty. Geoffrey Oglesbee but was not talking to attorneys David Doughten and Robert Dixon, who have handled most of his case so far.

Among Hamad's complaints was that he felt his attorneys were working with prosecutors. He also said he found the behavior of at least one of the jurors problematic.

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