US Guyanese gets 90 years for triple slayings
'How dare you think you could play God,' says judge
March 13, 2004
A Jersey City-based Guyanese convicted of stabbing to death his pregnant wife, her sister and her mother received the maximum sentence on Thursday - 90 years in prison, with a minimum of 85 years before becoming eligible for parole.
Alim Hassan, 32, stabbed the three women more than 20 times each in a bloody rampage on July 30, 2002. The killings were believed to have been fuelled by religious differences - even though his wife had converted to his Muslim religion, says a report in the New Jersey Star Ledger.
"How dare you think you could play God," Superior Court Judge Elaine Davis said before imposing sentence. "That you could take the lives of these people because you did not like their religion? What kind of a religion could warrant that kind of act and that kind of carnage?"
Hassan, who like his victims had emigrated from Guyana, showed no emotion, staring straight ahead, his hands cuffed behind his back. He did not address the court.
"As far as I am concerned, this defendant should never see the light of day after destroying the lives of so many people who came to this country to find freedom and a better life, and certainly did not find it," Davis said.
Bernadette Seajatan (L), Marlyn Hassan and Sharon Yassim
Hassan was arrested in Buffalo, N.Y., just hours after the murders, as he tried to cross into Canada.
He pleaded guilty Dec. 1, 2003, to two counts of murder and one count of aggravated manslaughter.
Relatives of Hassan's wife, Marlyn Hassan, 29, who was pregnant with twins; her sister, Sharon Yassim, 30; and their mother, Bernadette Seajatan, 49, asked Davis to impose the maximum sentence.
Baldeo Seajatan said no sentence could console him for the loss of his wife and two daughters.
"There is nothing that will make me happy," said Seajatan, 53. "It's a wound that will never heal. I'm happy with the sentence, but it is not justice. It is the law of the land and we must live by it."
Before Davis imposed sentence, defence attorney Michelle Adubato argued there were mitigating factors which should reduce the severity of the sentence for the charges - murder for Hassan's mother-in-law and sister-in-law, and aggravated manslaughter for his wife.
Adubato said Hassan had no prior convictions and did charity work in his community. She also said he has been diagnosed with serious depression and is taking medication for psychological problems. She also requested that the three slayings be treated as one crime, and that the sentences should run concurrently.
But Assistant Hudson County Prosecutor Mary Ellen Gaffney disagreed.
"I submit that it is no surprise that a man who killed his wife, her sister and mother would suffer some mental problems," Gaffney said. "To say that the lives of each of these women is not worth a separate sentence is completely unreasonable. Each was isolated from the others and each was stabbed more than 20 times. Given the facts, consecutive sentences are warranted."
Davis agreed, sentencing Hassan to 30 years without parole on each of the two murder counts, and 30 years on the manslaughter charge, with possibility of parole after serving 85 percent of the term. That means Hassan would have to live to the age of 117 to be eligible for parole.
Sharon Yassim's sons Andrew, now 8, and Christopher, now 3, also attended Thursday's sentencing.
The boys awoke to find themselves the only people alive in the Fox Place home in Jersey City on July 30, 2002, police said.
Neighbours called police after seeing the boys wandering the neighbourhood, with the older boy saying his mother was dead, officials said.
On Thursday, Shabeer Yassim told Davis about the impact of losing his wife on himself and his children.
"At times, when we sit together, my eldest son would say, 'I want to have the good times like before when mom and grandma would sit and play and watch TV with me.' Christopher always wants to go to heaven and wake up mom and grandma and Auntie Marlyn. He wants to know why they are not coming back home," Yassim said.
"These two boys are only babies. Christopher will never know what a mother's love is. He will only know what his mother looks like by seeing pictures," Yassim said.
"You deserve whatever punishment you get," he said, addressing Hassan.
"We miss our sisters, daughters, wives, mothers, nieces and cousins," said a cousin. "These three women were all of those. Our consolation is that one day we will meet again in heaven, a place Alim Hassan will never see."