A broken family’s screams erupted in a San Diego courtroom after a guilty verdict was announced in the trial of an Iraqi immigrant who killed his wife.
As the defendant cried out in Arabic "not guilty," his mother-in-law flailed her arms, screaming "you killed my daughter," while his two teenage sons chose opposing sides.
Jurors found Kassim Al-Himidi, 49, guilty in the death of his wife Shaima Alawadi -- a bloody, brutal beating once considered a hate crime that was, in the end, an act of domestic violence.
After Judge William McGrath handed off the verdict for reading, several family members began screaming, including the defendant's oldest son, who yelled profanities, saying he disagreed with the jury's verdict.
"This is bulls---!" This is f---ing bulls---!" the son yelled. "My dad is innocent. He was tried unfairly."
Al-Himidi smirked, crossed his arms, shook his head, wagged his finger and began praying as the jury was polled one by one. At one point, he put his head on the table in front of him. Then, he too began yelling.
According to a translator, Al-Himidi screamed out in Arabic, "God knows I'm not the killer. I'm not the killer! I'm innocent. Not guilty."
As deputies rushed to place handcuffs on Al-Himidi, he continued to yell, telling his family to seek international help on this case and have investigators look at it as a hate crime. He said to get him help from overseas to get him out of jail, the translator said.
Meanwhile, the mother of the victim stood up in court, flailing her arms, and screamed,"You killed my daughter. This is not a mistake, you did kill her."
Another one of Al-Himidi's sons sided with his grandmother and said his father did kill his mother.
Outside of the courtroom, through a translator, the victim's mother said a guilty verdict is the least Al-Himidi could have gotten in this case.
"If you killed her, you deserve to be killed as well," she added, with tears in her eyes. "My daughter was home, as you probably all know. He's the one."
The grandmother went on to say that she disagreed with her oldest grandson about the verdict.
"He does not believe that, but I do," she added.
She said she heard about the problems between her daughter and Al-Himidi before the killing, but she never imagined it would lead to murder.
Ron Rockwell, attorney for Al-Himidi's children, including daughter Fatima Al-Himidi, said the tension in the courtroom was from years of pent-up emotions. Despite the oldest son's outburst, which surprised the attorney, Rockwell said all of the siblings agree with the guilty verdict.
He released this statement, on behalf of the children:
“Fatima and her brothers and sisters respect the integrity of the jury system and find it unfathomably sad that their father found life so difficult that he resorted to taking the life of their dear mother but hope that this is justice for her and for them, her children that miss her dearly. We agree with the jury’s decision and although we love our father, we hate what we also believe that he did.
After over two years of great sadness, Fatima and her brothers and sisters find relief in now believing that they can begin to heal as a family while knowing in their minds that while missing their mother more and more with each passing day, whether that is with or without their father, it will always be without their mother.”
Al-Himidi will be sentenced on May 15, Judge McGrath said Thursday.
Alawadi, 32, was beaten in a bloody attack inside the family's home on March 21, 2012. She suffered critical brain injuries and died three days later.
At first, the case was investigated as a hate crime because of a handwritten note found at the crime scene that read: “This is my country, go back to yours, terrorist.”
Just before they entered deliberations, jurors were reminded of the defendant's timeline on the day of the beating.
According to phone records, Shaima called her husband at 8:04 a.m.
Video from a nearby middle school shows a burgundy Nissan Quest going and leaving the home that morning.
At 8:15 a.m. the van was seen traveling southbound along Emerald Avenue toward Skyview Street as Al-Himidi returns to the house from taking the children to school, prosecutors said.
Then, at 9:49 a.m. a vehicle matching the description stopped at the curb, just north of the intersection of Emerald and Skyview.
Prosecutors say 30 seconds later, a pedestrian can be seen moving from the vehicle towards the house at 564 Skyview Street, three homes from the corner.
At 10:10 a.m., cell phone records show someone called Al-Himidi’s cell phone but it goes unanswered.
Prosecutors say the phone communicated with the cell tower that serves the same area as the family’s home on Skyview.
“At 10:10 he’s still in his home tower area,” Deputy District Attorney Kurt Mechals said Tuesday.
The next phone call to Al-Himidi’s cell phone was from his daughter, Fatima, at 11:18 a.m. after Shaima is discovered.
Defense attorneys poked holes in the prosecution's case in their closing arguments.
Investigators did not find any forensic evidence linking their client to the crime scene, the defense argued.
They reminded jurors that witnesses testified how violence is not in Al-Himidi's character.
Throughout the trial, the defense raised questions about the role of Shaima's daughter, Fatima, who was in the house at the time of the attack.
She was called to testify several times and shared details of her parents’ tense marriage.
The defense believes Fatima was somehow involved in her mother’s murder.
“You don’t have to solve this mystery to acquit Mr. Al-Himidi,” defense attorney Richard Berkon told the jury. “You don’t have to figure out who did it.”
In closing, even Mechals told jurors, "Fatima doesn’t make your job easy, that’s for sure."
"Whether you can believe anything she says, that’s up to you," he said.
However, Mechals urged the jury to use their common sense to find what is reasonable and what isn't.
Al-Himidi has been visibly emotional throughout the trial, at times crying and wailing loudly as evidence was presented to the jury. He wept uncontrollably when 911 tapes were played in the courtroom at the beginning of the trial.
Cameras were only allowed in the courtroom during opening statements and closing arguments.
“He thought he had committed the perfect crime. He thought he had nothing to worry about,” Mechals said.
Both the defendant and victim are Iraqi immigrants. The murder investigation reverberated across the nation when it first happened because of the discovery of a threatning note.
However, in November 2012, El Cajon police announced the arrest of Al-Himidi and said the killing was not a hate crime, but rather one of domestic violence.