PHOENIX -- An Iraqi immigrant accused of killing his daughter because he believed she was too Westernized goes on trial this month in Arizona in a case that raised awareness about incidents of so-called "honor killings" in the U.S.
Faleh Hassan Almaleki, 50, faces life in prison if convicted. In October 2009, he slammed his Jeep into his daughter, Noor Almaleki, 20, prosecutors said.
The woman, who longed to live a normal American life, was in a coma for two weeks before succumbing to her injuries, in a case that caused outrage from people nationwide.
Faleh Almaleki moved his family from Iraq to the Phoenix suburb of Glendale in the mid-1990s. He and Noor Almaleki had a tumultuous relationship, according to police and court records, and her close friends.
At 17, she refused to enter into an arranged marriage in Iraq, enraging her father, according to a court document filed by prosecutors.
At 19, Noor Almaleki moved into her own apartment and began working at a fast food restaurant but quit and left her new place after her parents kept showing up at her work, insisting that she return home, the document said.
Later in 2009, she moved into the home of her boyfriend and his parents, Reikan and Amal Khalaf, shortly after she showed up at their house and said her parents had hit her. Faleh Almaleki regularly harassed his daughter and the Khalafs, once telling Reikan Khalaf that if his daughter didn't move out of their home, "something bad was going to happen," the document said.
And then on Oct. 20, 2009, Noor Almaleki spotted her father when she and Amal Khalaf visited a Department of Economic Security office in Peoria. She sent text messages to a friend saying "Dude, my dad is here at the welfare office," "I'm so shaky," "I knew I shouldn't have woke up," and later: "I've honestly never met anyone with so much evil."
When the two women left the office, Faleh Almaleki hit them with his Jeep before speeding off and fleeing the country, prosecutors said. Law enforcement soon after caught up with him and returned him to Phoenix.
Noor Almaleki underwent spinal surgery but died Nov. 2, 2009. Amal Khalaf survived.
"The investigation into these crimes revealed that the defendant was very angry with Noor for not living by traditional Iraqi values as she had, in his eyes, become too 'westernized' and brought dishonor on her family," prosecutors wrote in a court document.
Faleh Almaleki is charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault and leaving the scene of a serious injury accident.
Some of his court dates were postponed because he was on suicide watch for a while and his lawyers said he didn't understand the judicial process. His trial is set to begin Jan. 18.
Prosecutors are asking the judge to allow them to include the text messages that Noor Almaleki sent the day of her killing and her father's prior "bad acts" against his daughter in the years leading up to her killing. Both show malice and premeditation, prosecutors argue.
"Evidence of a defendant's prior act is also admissible to disprove the claim that the charged crime was a mistake or accident," prosecutor Laura Reckart wrote.
Defense attorneys argue that testimony about any prior acts committed by Faleh Almaleki should not be allowed at trial, saying there's no evidence and that it's all hearsay.
"The inference is highly prejudicial and will taint Mr. Almaleki's chances for a fair trial," attorney Jeffrey Kirchler wrote. "The risk is that the jury will assume if Mr. Almaleki previously abused his daughter, he is more likely to have premeditated her death."
The United Nations estimates that about 5,000 honor killings occur across the globe every year. Although rare, they do happen in the U.S.
In the Dallas suburb of Lewisville, Texas, Yaser Abdel Said, of Egypt, is accused of shooting his two Texas-born teenage daughters in the back of his taxi cab in 2008 in what the FBI calls an honor killing. Family members say Said felt the girls were acting too Western and had shamed him by dating non-Muslims.
In Buffalo, New York, Muzzammil Hassan is accused of beheading his wife in 2009, about a week after he was served with divorce papers. The body of Aasiya Hassan was found at the offices of Bridges TV, the station the Pakistan-born couple established in 2004 to counter negative stereotypes of Muslims.
Peoria police spokesman Mike Tellef said Noor Almaleki's killing raised awareness about honor killings in the U.S.
"It shocked a lot of people," he said. "I think it was a real eye-opener. This stuff's real, we've watched it on the news and heard about it in Florida, New York and other places in the U.S. It really is in our front yard."
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