The trial of Abdulsalam al-Zahrani, a former Binghamton University graduate student who was accused of stabbing a professor to death, has been postponed.
Potential jurors who had been called to appear today in Broome County Court were told via www.nyjuror.gov that they were excused from jury duty.
Broome County District Attorney Gerald Mollen said Monday that al-Zahrani, 46, will still appear in court Tuesday.
“The trial has been adjourned and the defendant is due in court for a formal order by the court tomorrow,” Mollen said.
The trial’s postponement comes nearly 15 months after al-Zahrani allegedly stabbed Richard Antoun, 77-year-old BU professor emeritus of anthropology, in Science I on Dec. 4, 2009. Al-Zahrani was indicted on Jan. 22 for second-degree murder on accusations that he had stabbed Antoun four times with a 6-inch kitchen blade.
Al-Zahrani pleaded not guilty.
According to a report from WBNG 12 Action News, two Broome County psychologists have concluded this week that al-Zahrani does not have the capacity to understand the proceedings against him or assist in his own defense.
This report comes after one of al-Zahrani’s lawyers, Frederica Miller, filed court documents that said the defendant lacks criminal responsibility for his action under New York penal law because, due to mental defect, he could not appreciate the nature or consequences of the alleged crime.
Miller’s filing stated that two mental health experts, Steven Simring and Charles Ewing, would testify that al-Zahrani has schizoaffective disorder and was psychotic at the time of the stabbing.
Medical dictionaries describe schizoaffective disorder as a diagnosis characterized by severely depressed mood coupled with disconnection from reality.
Mollen would not confirm the report.
“I can’t really comment on what status of competency exams might be,” he said.
However, when questioned further, Mollen added that “a person can be temporarily incompetent, and the case is basically on hold until the time that he regains competency.”
Vincent Accardi, one of al-Zahrani’s attorneys, was not available to comment Monday.
Al-Zahrani’s legal fees are being paid for by the Saudi Arabian Consulate, which is standard policy for citizens of the country.
The consulate had previously been unaware that Al-Zahrani had been studying in the United States, despite requests that Saudi students studying in the United States register with them.
Al-Zahrani’s former roommate, Souleymane “Jules” Sakho, said that the defendant often complained of financial difficulties.
Sakho, a philosophy, interpretation and culture (PIC) student, discussed his concerns about al-Zahrani with PIC Director Joshua Price, who advised Sakho to speak to an official at the University Counseling Center. Sakho said the official then told him simply to avoid al-Zahrani whenever possible.
In addition to al-Zahrani’s financial difficulties, he had been attempting to transfer out of the anthropology department and into the PIC program, according to Price.
Price said he met with al-Zahrani earlier on the day of the attack and informed him that he was unlikely to receive any financial aid.
Two hours after the meeting, Antoun had been stabbed. He died at Wilson Memorial Hospital that afternoon.
Based on a press release from DA Mollen’s office the day of the stabbing, “there is no indication of religious or ethnic motivation” behind the crime.