On July 28, 2006, Naveed Haq, a 30-year-old Pakistani-American, drove from his parents’ house in Pasco, Washington, to the Jewish Federation in Seattle and went on a murderous rampage.
Unable to break into the locked building, Haq waited until a 14-year-old girl with a key came along. With a gun to her back, he forced her to let him in. He then announced that he was a Muslim American who was angry at Israel, and opened fire.
Walking through the office spewing anti-Semitic comments and ranting against American policies in the Middle East, he aimed his semi-automatic gun at Jewish charity employees working at their cubicles. He chased Pamela Waechter, director of the annual fundraiser, down a flight of stairs and fatally shot her. Five other women were wounded.
Dayna Klein, a 37-year-old pregnant woman was shot in the arm as she covered her belly to protect her unborn baby. She courageously crawled to her office and dialed 911. After speaking to the operator, she handed the phone to Haq. “I have a gun pointed at her head. This is a hostage situation.” He complained about US support of Israel and America’s involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He insisted that US foreign policy leaves Muslims “repressed” and that Jews have too much control over American policy. Eventually, the 911 operator convinced Haq to surrender to authorities.
After the arrest, Haq told police officers that “this is about the Jews and what they are doing. The Jews are running the country. This about getting the US out of Iraq…..If we give bombs and bunker-busters to Israel, and we shouldn’t be doing it, it’s got to stop. That’s what this is all about.”
Haq was charged with one count of first degree aggravated murder, five counts of attempted first degree murder, kidnapping, burglary, and malicious harassment (a hate crime). Originally, Haq pled not guilty, but after securing an attorney, he changed his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity.
The facts of the case were undisputed. The case hinged on whether or not Haq had the mental state of mind to form the requisite intent, or whether he was legally insane. A person is legally insane when he is unable to perceive the nature and quality of his acts or is unable to tell right from wrong regarding the acts with which he is charged.
Haq resided with his parents, who helped found the Islamic Center in West Richland, Washington. The center is affiliated with the North American Islamic Trust, which is the financial arm of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Both are Saudi controlled Wahabbi organizations. Indeed, ISNA was an un-indicted co-conspirator in the Justice Department’s recent terrorist funding trial of the Holy Land Foundation.
In the instant case, the prosecution asserted that Haq was capable of pre-meditating his actions and planning in advance. Evidence proved that Haq had done computer searches to identify Jewish organizations and mapped his 227-mile trip to the Jewish Federation. Receipts showed that he bought two semi-automatic weapons and a shot gun approximately two weeks prior to the shooting. He kept the guns in his truck so as not to draw attention to them.
While driving to his final destination, he stopped to test-fire the guns to ensure that they worked. Upon arrival at the building, he hid in the foyer to avoid being detected. His shooting was not random. He purposely chased a woman down the stairs pointing a gun at her head. He knew he was shooting people, and he knew he was shooting Jews.
Three days prior to his murder spree, Haq had been seen by both his nurse and his counselor. Neither of them reported any unusual or manic behavior. Later, Haq admitted that he had lied to his counselor when he told her that he didn’t have access to weapons, thereby demonstrating that he knew right from wrong.
Haq had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (depression and mania) and schizoaffective disorder (a thought disorder); he was on anti-depressant medication. However, upon cross-examination, the defense’s star witness, a psychiatrist, admitted that these disorders did not necessarily prevent him from being guilty of the crimes with which he was charged. And, despite a claim of past delusions, the defense never argued that Haq heard God’s voice directing him to drive to the Federation or shoot anyone there. On the contrary, Haq told psychologist Robert Wheeler, “I just got it in my mind to do some political activism, so I hopped in my truck. I got it in my head to do a mission. On my way to the Federation, I decided I was going to take some hostages.”
Nevertheless, defense attorneys argued that Haq must have been unable to form the intent necessary to commit premeditated murder. They likened his mental state to a stick of dynamite, ready to explode. After all, he was under incredible pressure, financial and social. Unable to hold a job, Haq had trouble making friends. Further, the fact that Haq believed that God approved of his mission and that he was doing God’s will by killing Jews, was proof that he was insane. Defense attorneys claimed that Haq believed that he was actually saving lives because his actions could change the course of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And, “the uncanny accuracy of his shooting when he has no weapons training was another sign to him of divine intervention” announced defense attorney Wesley Richards. Thus the insanity plea.
But it is not quite that simple. Though Haq claimed that he heard a voice of divine origin, and felt that some external force was controlling his finger on the trigger, he failed to mention this until eighteen months after the shooting. It wasn’t until the final interview with the defense’s psychologist, a mere three months before the trial, that Haq advanced this idea. Only in retrospect, it seems, did he suffer from delusions.
The fact was not lost on the prosecution. “Imagine,” prosecutor Don Raz argued during trial proceedings in May, “if your teenage son or daughter came in and said, ‘Mom, Dad, remember when I wrecked the car eighteen months ago? God was driving.” Raz admitted that Haq had a history of mental problems, which made it hard for him to make friends and keep jobs. But he explained that Haq still knew the difference between right and wrong. Therefore, whatever emotional problems he had did not meet the definition of legal insanity.
On day six of deliberations, the jury asked the judge for clarification on the legal definition of insanity and what it means to know right from wrong. The judge did not provide any answers beyond the jury instructions that had already given. On the eighth day of deliberations, the jury was still struggling with whether or not Haq met the legal definition of insanity, so the Judge declared a mistrial. The jury had found Haq not guilty of one count and was unable to form a conclusion on the other fourteen counts including first degree murder. Had Haq been found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would have been committed to an insane asylum. A guilty verdict would have resulted in a life long prison sentence.
Perhaps Judge Kallas was bound by law not to provide clarification on the jury’s question. Or perhaps she did not know the answer in the context of this case. For two centuries, America’s legal system has assumed there is an objective right and wrong to which everyone subscribes.
That assumption is now being tested. The Haq case raises significant questions regarding the legal definition of insanity and how we explain right from wrong. If a person is indoctrinated with theological beliefs that his violence will be rewarded in heaven, but he is otherwise lucid and intentional regarding his actions, is he legally insane? If so, must America allow any radical Muslims who kill Jews and Christians for "pious" purposes to be acquitted? After all, Palestinian suicide-bombers, Muslims committing genocide on Christians in Dafur, radicals in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and those committing the bombings in London, Madrid, as well as the 9/11 hijackers, were all acting in the name of their faith. The precedent of the Haq case would seem to be that these Muslims are not terrorists, but victims of mental illness.
To avoid such rulings in the future, the legal definition of insanity should be altered to take into account that not all cultures and religions have the same view of right and wrong. The question should not be whether the defendant believes his actions are right or wrong, but whether he knows how our society views his actions. Haq premeditated and planned his actions in advance; knew the nature of what he was doing, i.e. he knew he was shooting people, not engaging in target practice; knew that our society considers his actions wrong; knew he was committing a crime; and knew there would be consequences if he were caught. His religious belief that Allah would approve of his murderous crimes should not exonerate him.
Legal insanity is demonstrated by someone who strangles a man’s neck, thinking he is squeezing a lemon. The defense is not intended for clear-headed men who choose to abide by an immoral doctrine.