HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Trial is beginning today for Dr. Iqbal Memon, the father of Discovery Middle School shooter Hammad Memon.
Dr. Memon is accused of helping his son try to leave the country ahead of his murder trial.
Monday morning, Dr. Memon rejected a plea deal, pleading not guilty in Judge Donna Pate’s courtroom. A jury of three men and nine women were then selected after several hours of routine questioning.
Dr. Memon is charged with hindering prosecution. He is accused of helping his son try to leave the country in 2012 to avoid prosecution. Hammad was caught with his mother, Safia, in Dallas, Texas in April 2012. Safia Memon pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution and is serving a year of probation.
In 2013, Hammad Memon pleaded guilty to the murder of Todd Brown at Discovery Middle School in Madison in February 2010. He is serving a life sentence.
Assistant District Attorney and lead prosecutor Melvin Lockett began opening arguments for the state by saying, “We are here because a young man was killed.”
In recounting the events of April 2012 surrounding Hammad Memon Lockett claimed, “His parents devised a plan to help him avoid justice for Todd Brown and his family.”
Lockett said a Madison mail carrier familiar with the Memon family and their son’s murder case delivered a package to the Memon home at 14 Honor Way in Madison on April 11. According to Lockett the mail carrier recognized the package to contain passports and immediately alerted the Madison Police Department.
Lockett said a Sergeant within the department was able to determine two passports had been issued to Safia and Hammad Memon by the Pakistani Embassy. Madison Police then contacted FBI officials to confirm any potential flights that may have been reserved by a member of the Memon family.
When Madison Police showed up to the Memon home, Iqbal Memon answered the door, but Hammad his mother Safia and the family’s youngest daughter were gone.
Prosecutor Lockett stated Iqbal Memon told authorities his wife was in Atlanta to visit sick relatives. Lockett said Memon then added to that story to say his relatives were in Georgia to celebrate their daughter’s birthday.
Lockett said police already knew the Memons were in transit to Dallas, TX to catch a flight out of the country because they were able to ping and trace Safia Memon’s cell phone.
Madison Police then alerted Dallas authorities, ICE and the Department of Homeland Security, according to Lockett.
He says the Memons were found preparing to board a bus to Laredo, TX with cash and passports in hand.
“They were evading justice,” Lockett told the jury.
After the arrest of Safia, Hammad and Iqbal, Lockett says it was determined that Safia Memon had transferred $49,000 from U.S. bank account she shared with her husband to an account in Pakistan. He says police also found documents inside the Memon home related to how the passports were procured.
“This case is about a father who failed,” Lockett said as he finished his opening statement.
Jurors steadily scribbled notes and Safia Memon was visibly shaking when defense attorney Barry Abston began his statements and mentioned the date of February 5, 2010. Family members of slain teen Todd Brown listened, emotionless, as Abston began to lay out the summary of his case.
“This poor family was wounded in a special way — not only was that child lost but their child was lost as well,” Abston said of the Memons.
Abston characterized Iqbal Memon as a compassionate physician who had worked hard to earn his stage in life and that in one afternoon, “that all came to a heap at their feet,” Abston said.
Abston explained Hammad was in jail from February to October 2010 and bond was not set until July. Abston said against the wishes of Safia Memon, Iqbal would not allow his son to be bonded out of jail. Abston said Iqbal agreed to allow his son to come home after three months of pleas from his wife. Abston said Safia in the midst of a “parade of horribles,” could not sleep and became increasingly distraught about her teenage son going to and adult prison filled with hardened criminals.
“Safia Memon began to plan and plot and scheme to get her son out of the country,” in January 2012 according to Abston. “And she has admitted that.”
Abston said Safia knew her husband would not go along with a plan to leave the country. He said Safia initially told her husband she was going to Atlanta to pick up specialty meats the family regularly consumed in accordance with their Islamic faith. Abston said while these meats could be obtained in Madison County, they can be bought cheaper and of higher quality in metro areas like Atlanta and Nashville which boast higher immigrant populations.
“Half the story being told by the state is making this seem a lot more planned out than it was,” Abston told jurors.
He said Safia consistently lied to Iqbal adding that a sick aunt was in Atlanta so she would also take the opportunity on the trip to visit with her ailing relative. Abston said Iqbal had no reason to distrust his wife as she stopped just north of Birmingham on Thursday April 12 to check available flights.
Safia Memon was never in Atlanta.
He said Safia found there were no available flights in Birmingham but there was a direct flight from Dallas to Pakistan, so she immediately headed toward Texas in a panicked, haphazard state of mind with her son and daughter in tow. Abston claims all along, Iqbal Memon believed the ruse and had no clue what was going on until he was arrested at his home that Friday, April 13.
“He was one very unhappy, betrayed husband,” Abston said. “He was furious – he was livid – and their marriage almost came apart as a result of that betrayal.”
Abston claimed, contrary to the state’s portrayal in opening arguments, that earlier in the week when questioned before his arrest Iqbal provided Safia’s cell phone number, provider and her credit card information. State prosecutor Melvin Lockett told jurors Iqbal told police his wife “was in Atlanta and didn’t have a cell phone.”
“When you’ve heard all the evidence – and lack thereof on this case – we ask you to return a verdict of not guilty,” Abston closed.
Madison County Assistant District Attorney Tim Gann, the lead prosecutor in young Memon’s murder trial, took the stand as the state’s first witness. Gann testified as to the process by which law enforcement learned of the procurement of Pakistani passports by Safia Memon and how they tracked her to Texas using cell phone data.
The trial of Iqbal Memon will resume Tuesday morning in Judge Donna Pate’s courtroom.