Convicted Howland murderer to judge: ‘Give me the benefit of the doubt’

WARREN, Ohio (WYTV) – The same jury that found Nasser Hamad guilty of aggravated murder is now considering his punishment.

It took the jury less than two hours last week to find Hamad guilty of shooting and killing two people and hurting three others at his Howland home in February. The sentencing phase of the trial started Monday morning.

Hamad could face the death penalty, life without parole, life with the chance for parole after 25 years or life with the chance of parole after 30 years.

The defense is trying to show why Hamad deserves one of the lighter sentences. The jury will then make its recommendation to the judge, who makes the final decision.

Before this phase of the trial could even begin Monday morning, some issues needed to be cleared up in court, mainly dealing with the lack of communication between Hamad and his defense team. Attorneys Robert Dixon and David Doughten both said Hamad had refused to speak with them since last Monday.

Hamad told the judge he was unhappy with the way things turned out, even at one point saying that he could have done a better job himself.

“This was an easy case. How could they lose an easy case like this?” Hamad said.

He addressed the court before the mitigation phase even began.

“This case isn’t where I’m sick in the head, have a criminal background, murdering people. This was on my own property, your Honor. Can you not give me the benefit of the doubt?”

After a brief meeting with his attorneys, Hamad agreed to keep his current counsel in place and move forward with the trial.

His defense team called more than a dozen witnesses to testify to his character. They were family members — Hamad’s sisters, ex-wife, and children — neighbors from when he was growing up, and even people he’s done business with.

All said he has a great work ethic, loves his children, and would go out of his way to help people.

“What happened as a product of where we are today is not the person I know,” said former neighbor Charles Richardson.

When Nadia Hamad — Nasser’s daughter — was asked that if, even from jail, he had been a good father, she responded, “Better than good. He’s great.”

Hamad’s sister said it’s unfortunate what happened.

“I feel badly, sorry, for both families who lost their kids because I’m a mom.”

The defense also called psychologist Dr. James Reardon to the stand. Hamad’s attorneys wanted Reardon to testify to Hamad’s state of mind during the first phase of the trial but weren’t permitted to do so.

Reardon believes Hamad has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but didn’t display any full-blown symptoms until the day of the shooting. He argued the fight that happened before was his trigger.

“In my opinion, that was the activating event. I mean, that…was something that he had been fearful of, worried about, hyper-vigilant about for months leading up to that,” Reardon said.

Prosecutors didn’t call any witnesses.

The jury will return Tuesday morning to receive their instructions and begin deliberating for this part of the trial.