(DALLAS) — Jurors heard closing arguments Tuesday in the capital murder trial of Yaser Said, who is accused of fatally shooting his two teenage daughters, 18-year-old Amina Said and 17-year-old Sarah Said, in a taxi in the Dallas area in 2008.
Said was placed on the FBI’s most-wanted list and evaded arrest for more than 12 years. Said, who had worked as a cab driver, was arrested in August 2020 in Justin, Texas. He entered a not guilty plea and faces an automatic life sentence if convicted.
Prosecutors claim Said, who is Muslim, murdered his daughters because he was upset that the girls were dating.
“He wouldn’t even let these girls go to a movie. He wouldn’t let them date,” a prosecutor said during closing statements Tuesday.
ABC News local affiliate WFAA reported that police have described the murders as “honor killings” — defined as the killing of a relative, especially a girl or woman, who is perceived to have brought dishonor on the family in certain cultures.
During the trial, prosecutors read a December 21, 2007, email Amina wrote to her history teacher 10 days before she and her sister were killed, saying their father “made our lives a nightmare” and that she and her sister wanted to run away.
“I am so scared right now,” Amina wrote, according to prosecutors. “OK, well as you know we’re not allowed to date and my dad is arranging my marriage. My dad said I cannot put it off any more and I have to get married this year.”
“He will, without any drama nor doubt, kill us,” she also wrote.
The girls, along with their mother and their boyfriends, fled their Texas home to Oklahoma on Christmas Day 2007, four days after Amina sent the email. Witnesses said the girls returned to the Dallas area on New Year’s Eve when their mother, Patricia Owens, said Said convinced her to return home.
The girls’ bodies were found on New Year’s Day 2008 in a taxi cab prosecutors said Said drove.
Last Wednesday, the prosecution played the 911 call Sarah allegedly made the night of her death. During the call, a woman can be heard frantically screaming that her father had shot her and that she was dying.
During her testimony in court last Thursday Owens pointed to her ex-husband, calling him “that devil.” She testified that Said was controlling and abusive throughout their relationship, adding that she and her daughters left him several times over the years, but they always returned out of fear.
Owens declined to comment on the case until her ex-husband is convicted, she told ABC News.
In a letter written to the judge overseeing the case, Said said while he disapproved of his daughters’ “dating activity,” he denied killing the girls.
“I was upset because in my culture it’s something to get upset about,” said Said, who took the stand Monday. He testified that he immigrated to the U.S. from Egypt in 1983 and later became a U.S. citizen.
Said told jurors that the evening his daughters were killed, he was taking them to dinner because he wanted to smooth things over and “solve the problem.”
However, Said claims he left the vehicle, fleeing into a wooded area before the girls were killed because he thought someone wanted to murder him, testifying that he spotted an unknown person in a car stalking them while they were driving to dinner.
Said said he did not turn himself in after the murders because he didn’t think he would get a fair trial.
The defense team claims that Said was targeted by law enforcement because of his Muslim faith and cultural beliefs.
“Everybody has a preference and how they discipline their kids, just like they have a preference for what kind of food they eat, what kind of people they date, what religion they want to practice,” Baharan Muse, Said’s defense attorney, said in closing arguments Tuesday. “Discipline does not mean you murdered your children. Your culture does not mean you murdered your children.”
Said’s defense team alleged prosecutors sought to “generalize” and “criminalize an entire culture, to fit their narrative.”
The prosecution rejected the claim that Said was unjustly accused for his religious beliefs.
“If you intentionally or knowingly cause the death of another in Dallas County, we are coming for you. Period. You will be prosecuted. Period. It has nothing to do with your race or religion,” prosecutor Lauren Black said in her closing argument.
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