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Many Unusual Elements in Oweiss Murder Case

Drama filled the courtroom during the two-week long murder trial of Zakaria Oweiss, with many usual twists and turns.

“It’s had its unique aspects,” prosecutor Katherine Winfree said.

* CONTINUATIONS — Zakaria Oweiss was originally scheduled for trial in February 2002, six months after he was charged and arrested on Aug. 16, 2001. The case was continued in May when he changed attorneys and, then again, in October when sniper attacks caused complications obtaining jury members. The case, which finally started on Friday, Feb. 28, 2003, began four days late the court was closed one day and Judge S. Michael Pincus was stranded in Arizona, unable to get a flight back in the aftermath of nearly two feet of snow.

* DEFENSE STRATEGY — Zakaria Oweiss’ defense strategy was to blame his own son for the murder of his wife. Neither Winfree nor Doug Gansler, state’s attorney, recall a case in which a parent has blamed his or her child as a means of defense. Very few defense attorneys would handle such cases, Gansler said.

* MISSING EVIDENCE — The clerk and deputy sheriff both saw defendant Zakaria Oweiss handle evidence underneath the defense table prior to the discovery that a key on a key chain was missing.

“For a short period of time, he had keys underneath the table in his left hand,” said Kevin Greene, deputy sheriff III. Oweiss was searched by the police but the key was never found. “It is clear to the court on Feb. 24… that the VW key was on the key ring,” Judge S. Michael Pincus said. Peter Davis, Zakaria Oweiss’ attorney suggested that the prosecution mishandled the key.

* ATTORNEY TAKES THE STAND — Peter Davis, Zakaria Oweiss’ attorney, took the witness stand after missing evidence was discovered during the trial to ensure that no one suspected him of orchestrating misconduct. “That was quite unusual. In my 27 years as a prosecutor, I’ve never seen that,” Winfree said, of a defense attorney taking the witness stand during his own case.

* PROSECUTORY MISHANDLING — Nancy Luque, one of Zakaria Oweiss’ original attorneys who assisted Davis when he took the stand, accused the prosecution of mishandling evidence when they gave a remote keylock that was on Zakaria Oweiss’ key chain to Omar Oweiss. Prosecutors say the remote had nothing to do with the case. Luque said it was grounds for a mistrial. Judge Pincus dismissed the allegations. Gansler said attorneys who resort to such tactics when they have nothing to do with an outcome of a case should be sanctioned by judges.

* ONE MORE WITNESS — Ibrahim Oweiss, brother of Zakaria Oweiss and a retired economics professor from Georgetown University, took the stand a second time as a witness for the defense, even after both the prosecution and defense rested last Friday, March 7, before closing arguments. He was asked one question.

<1b>—Ken Moore