Live or die? Lawyers begin penalty phase for Ali Irsan, convicted of honor killings

Sentencing to begin Friday

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – Ali Irsan was convicted Thursday of capital murder in the 2012 killings of his son-in-law, Coty Beavers, and Gelareh Bagherzadeh, a friend of Irsan's daughter.

The sentencing phase began Friday.

The jury will decide whether Irsan should get the death penalty or life in prison.

Irsan took the stand in his own defense for nearly five hours Wednesday. In closing arguments Thursday, prosecutors painted Irsan as a radical who needed to be stopped. Irsan's defense attorneys pointed the finger at his wife, who has a plea deal, and his daughter, whose husband and dear friend were killed.

In the end, the jury didn't buy the theory. After about 30 minutes of deliberation, they found Irsan guilty around 5 p.m.

Irsan killed his victims because his daughter was influenced by one Christian -- Bagherzadeh -- and married another -- Beavers, according to the prosecution.

Attorneys on both sides said the penalty phase could last as long as four weeks or more, as several family members and friends of Irsan are expected to be flown in to testify on his behalf.

Irsan has killed before, at least that’s what prosecutor Jon Stephenson told jurors Friday morning during opening statements of the punishment phase. Stephenson said the two murders he was convicted of Thursday were not his first.

Stephenson said Irsan also killed another son-in-law who fell in love with one of his other daughters. Stephenson said the daughter went outside the Muslim faith and angered Irsan. Stephenson said Irsan then bragged about the killing.

Prosecutors said Irsan defrauded the federal government and even stole from his own mosque. On the stand, a volunteer with a mosque in Conroe testified Irsan asked for assistance. He said the mosque does not give out cash directly to a family as assistance. He said Irsan instead claimed his wife was the landlord and the mosque paid money to the wife believing the money was paying for housing.

Prosecutors said Irsan was a threat in the past and also in the future.

Stephenson said, “He will not stop. You will learn about his dangerous behavior in custody.”

Defense attorneys did not offer an opening statement as the punishment phase began.

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