From staff reports
The News Courier
The murder trial of a 16-year-old accused of shooting a Discovery Middle School student may be delayed past its June 18 start date after Hammad Memon’s attorney filed a motion Thursday to delay the case.
Attorney Bruce Gardner’s motion claims Memon is “presently not competent to stand trial.” The teen is suffering from mental illness, the motion says, which has “worsened as a result of recent events in the case and his subsequent incarceration.”
Gardner asked for the trial to be delayed for at least 120 days.
Hammad is accused of shooting to death classmate Todd Brown, 14, at Discovery Middle School in February 2010. Hammad, who was 14 at the time, will be tried as an adult.
Hammad’s parents, Dr. Iqbal Memon and Safia Memon, were arrested April 13 on felony charges of hindering prosecution. Authorities believe a Pakistani passport was ordered for Hammad in an attempt to get him out of the country prior to his trial.
Safia, Hammad and the Memons’ 6-year-old daughter fled the state and were later apprehended at a bus station in Dallas. Authorities arrested Iqbal Memon because they claimed he was not being truthful during a search of the family’s Madison home while in pursuit of Hammad.
Since that incident last month, Hammad’s pretrial bond was revoked and he has remained in a single-occupancy cell in the Madison County Jail.
“It’s a blessing he tried to flee because now he’s in jail and maybe we can get this case over with,” said Michael Brown, father of murder victim Todd Brown following the incident. “Maybe now justice will be served.” Michael Brown lives in Tanner.
Brown told The News Courier last month his son’s case deserves national attention. “If my son had killed a doctor’s son, it would have been different,” he said. “He would have been locked up from Day 1.”
Gardner’s motion states that he has spent “considerable time” with Hammad since the return from Texas, but “the defendant is in need of additional time to prepare for a defense of not guilty by reason of disease or mental defect.”
Madison County Assistant District Attorney Tim Gann said he anticipated Gardner’s motion and he feels confident Circuit Judge Karen Hall will grant the motion. He said the prosecution would likely have Hammad evaluated by state mental health officials as the next step in the case.
Gardner’s motion said the defense intends to retain its own experts and will not seek a court-ordered health evaluation.
“I anticipate we will be able to use all (Hammad’s) past history. We’ll gather those records and use anything else we can find,” Gann said. “It will put us in a different posture.”
Early Tuesday, Iqbal was rushed to Huntsville Hospital after reportedly suffering seizure-like symptoms and dizziness. A television news crew from Huntsville stood outside his home and filmed as emergency crews loaded him into an ambulance in the pre-dawn hours.
On Wednesday, Iqbal’s attorney, Bruce Gardner, said his client was back at home and resting.
“I’m not his doctor, but I can’t help think it’s stress,” Gardner said. “Lots and lots of stress.”
Todd Brown’s mother, Towanda Moore, reportedly filed a civil lawsuit naming the Memon family and the Madison City School District liable for her son’s death.
Before the shooting
Prior to Brown’s death, Iqbal Memon was known to most as a pediatrician at Children’s Associates of Athens. Since the incident, however, he and his family of five have faced scrutiny of the media and the public and he is now fighting the rumor that he has lost his license to practice medicine in Alabama.
When asked if media coverage had hurt his practice, Iqbal said it had.
“I do owe (patients) an explanation because you have to have someone you can trust,” he said. “But according to the U.S. Constitution, I am innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”
Iqbal said Hammad was being treated for psychiatric symptoms and depression at the time he says he discovered a gun at a friend’s home. The treatment began in July 2009, seven months before the shooting. He said the physician treating his son told the family Hammad could be suicidal but not homicidal.
Hammad had also been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Iqbal said the physician treating his son wrote a letter to the Madison City School Board requesting Hammad transfer from Liberty Middle School to Discovery Middle School.
“(The doctor) believed Hammad would benefit from the change,” he said.
Iqbal said when his son arrived at Discovery, however, he fell in with “wannabe gang members,” one of which, he said, was Brown. He said the gang likened itself to the Crips gang.
In November 2009, Hammad was sent to alternative school for the remainder of the semester for defacing a men’s room at the school with gang graffiti. On the surface, Iqbal said, alternative school was a solution to their son’s worsening mental problems.
“He had a good counselor at alternative school,” he said. “He was getting one-on-one attention, his grades improved and he felt better.”
Iqbal said in January 2010, the Madison City School Board wanted Hammad back in school at Discovery, but the parents wanted him to stay in alternative school. He said upon Hammad’s return to Discovery, his son was exposed to “the same old environment,” but was taunted and bullied by his former friends.
Hammad had burned a Crips bandana, Iqbal said, which signified his son wanted to have no part of the group. Burning a gang’s bandana is also viewed as the ultimate sign of disrespect.
Iqbal alleges his son’s former friends, including Brown, called his son “Osama” and “faggot,” and regularly made fun of his religion, race and culture.
“Hammad did what he did out of insanity and because he felt threatened,” he said. “We were completely unaware he had a gun. The family has no traffic violations and he comes from a very stable, educated family.”
A call made to Todd Brown’s father, Michael Brown, regarding Iqbal Memon’s recent comments was not immediately returned.
A father’s quest
If Hammad is found guilty of Brown’s murder, he could face up to 30 years in prison. Iqbal believes his son is too young and psychologically immature to be exposed to an adult prison.
“If he goes to prison, he would not come out a useful U.S. citizen,” he said. “If we do not help young teenagers who have psychiatric problems, we let them suffer a prison sentence where we allow them to be raped, robbed and bullied.”
Iqbal said his son’s case emphasizes a need for an overhaul of the state’s juvenile justice system. On Monday, he visited the offices of The News Courier to discuss a committee he and Safia have formed that would address juvenile sentencing in Alabama and nationally.
Ideally, he said, Hammad would serve his sentence in a state mental hospital where he could receive treatment.