The outcome of the most traumatic event in the history of the Seattle Jewish community remains in limbo as a Seattle jury deadlocked yesterday on judging Naveed Haq for his 2006 shooting attack on the local Jewish federation:
King County Prosecutor Daniel Satterberg vowed to retry Jewish Federation shooter Naveed Haq after the jury said they were unable to agree on all but one of the 15 counts of murder and attempted murder in the July 2006 shooting spree that seriously injured six women, killing one.
After six weeks of testimony from 32 witnesses for the prosecution and 16 for the defense, a packed Seattle courtroom watched on June 4 as jurors gave up after eight days of deliberation.
“Substantial justice cannot be done,” Judge Paris K. Kallas told the court. “There is no reasonable probability of the jury reaching an agreement. I declare a mistrial.”
In the aftermath of his spree, Haq left many lives torn asunder both among victims and his own family.
Haq is a mentally ill Pakistani-American who developed a grievance against Jews for Israel’s harmful actions toward the Palestinians. Mumbling anti-Israel and anti-Semitic slogans as he forced his way into the building by forcing a teenage girl to help him gain access at gunpoint, he proceeded to go on a shooting spree.
In the weeks after the shooting, several victims and their family, while voicing anguish for their own suffering, expressed the belief that Haq was more a victim of mental illness than a full-on violent sociopath. They told the prosecutor they preferred he not bring a death penalty case against such a clearly disturbed individual. Thankfully, Norm Maleng agreed and filed serious, but lesser charges. These are the ones on which the jury deadlocked. The only charge they dismissed outright was the one for first degree murder. This means that the next trial will have to pursue second degree murder and other charges instead. It also indicates that the jury found it difficult to “throw the book” at Haq and defense attorneys claimed the deadlock meant the jury understood that the perpetrator’s schizophrenia as a serious mitigating factor in the crime. This will certainly weigh on the prosecution as they decide on a legal strategy for the retrial and what charges to bring.
The local Jewish community feels torn both by the trial and its outcome. Everyone wants to feel safe as Jews in this town. It is important that those who declare open season on Jews face responsibility for their actions. On the other hand, many community members understand that this is a man who was not fully in control of his faculties. How do you punish such a person in a way that sends a message that Jew-hatred will not be tolerated; but that the mentally ill will not be treated as cold-blooded murderers?
Haq is lucky he was tried in a place like Seattle. In most other jurisdictions in this country, he’d already be in prison with a life sentence or worse. He may still end up there. But in this community, residents wrestle with issues like fairness, tolerance, social justice and mental illness. They don’t merely lock up criminals and throw away the key. Not, at least, without serious consideration of the consequences.
Naveed Haq has become a poster child of Islamophobes the world over (cf. O.J. Jury, the Sequel: Mistrial for Muslim who…Assassinated Jews…). Proof positive of implacable, ingrained Muslim anti-Semitism. As in most such cases, the truth is much more complicated. At the funeral of the one victim, Pamela Waechter, Haq’s family transmitted a letter of heartfelt condolence to the victim’s family. Unlike in the Middle East (or right-wing blogs like Debbie Schlussel’s), in this community there is some ability to rise above tribal hatreds.
It is telling that one of the victims, in summarizing her feelings about the mistrial lashed out not at Haq’s family or Arabs or even the jury, but America’s politicians who lack the courage to take on the issue of rampant gun abuse in this society:
“I’m ashamed that I live in a society where the seriously and chronically mentally ill can legally purchase handguns,” [Cheryl] Stumbo said in her remarks after the mistrial. “How can it not be obvious to our elected representatives that the right to live and work in a safe environment trumps the right of dangerous people to buy and use deadly weapons?”
I’m not going to make the claim that Seattle is a perfect city because it isn’t. But I have to say that the response of many of the victims, Haq’s family, and many others in the Jewish community has made me proud to live here.
I want to be clear to those readers who object to my views on Arab-Jewish relations that I do not believe that Naveed Haq is innocent, nor that he should not be punished for what he’s done. But the punishment must fit not just the crime, but the circumstances of the case and the killer’s mental state. This is what Judaism demands. We must remember that a “hanging Sanhedrin” (Jewish Supreme Court) was one that executed somebody once in 70 years. We are not a people who thirst for vengeance. Justice yes, but tempered by mercy.