Father sentenced to death penalty in 'honor killings'

Ali Irsan, 60, has been sentenced to the death penalty in the "honor killings" of son-in-law and daughter's close friend.

Prosecutors say Irsan killed his victims, Gelareh Bagherzadeh and Coty Beavers, 11 months apart in 2012 to restore his honor after his daughter converted to Christianity.  Bagherzadeah and Beavers, Irsan’s daughter's friend and husband, were both Christians.

It's been six-and-a-half long years for the Bagherzadeh family, they just wish their daughter Gelareh were here to see it.

"She is happy today. She wanted today. She was dancing in the courtroom from heaven. Jumping up and down screaming ‘yes!’" said her dad, Dr. Ebrahaim Bagherzadeh.

Ali Irsan had his son murder her because he thought she was a bad influence on his daughter who had converted to Christianity and married an American named Cody Beavers. He too was murdered at Irsan's command. He also killed a son-in-law but was never convicted of that. Witnesses told the court he was violent and would often beat and rape his wife and children. It took nine hours for the jury to decide to sentence him to death.

"We are very disappointed by the verdict and the sentencing. The case will go on appeal and we will see what happens," said defense attorney Allen Tanner.

Irsan’s behavior during the trial frightened the jury. He made numerous outbursts and at one point they actually feared for the judge's safety. No execution date has been set and there are more trials on the way, but at least now his victims’ families can rest a little easier.

"I think we feel safer now knowing that he's going to be on death row and he won't have as much access to cause further harm and damage," said  Coty's mom, Shirley McCormick.

In closing arguments, defense attorneys told jurors not only is the death penalty wrong in their view but also in God’s eyes.  Prosecutors call Irsan an evil Muslim extremist who has killed before, who beat and in some instances even raped his wife and kids, who scammed money and who’s continuing to wreak havoc behind bars by building a shank and having two of his sons smuggle drugs into the jail.

In this punishment phase of the trial, jurors have to answer three questions: is Irsan a future threat, did he intend for the victims to die and are there mitigating circumstances that should lessen his penalty to life in prison rather than death?  Defense attorneys say one such circumstance is Irsan’s father was abusive.  So they say Irsan never learned how to appropriately handle the stress that comes with parenting.