From Iranian Immigrant to American Murderer
The trial of Ben Yasipour
A lecture by:
Camron Amin, University of Michigan, Dearborn.
In 2001, Brian (Hosayn) Yasipour was arrested in Williamsport, Pennsylvania for the murder of his four-year-old daughter, Susan, while in the midst of a custody dispute with estranged wife Mellie (Amaneh Khatun). As the Williamsport community — particularly its court system — processed this tragedy by supporting Mellie and trying Brian, it became clear that their social identity — as White/Middle Eastern, Christian/Muslim, American/Iranian — was not always a settled matter in any given moment. This was particularly true of Brian whose legal culpability depended on the Court’s assessment of his sanity, which, in turn, was linked to the question of whether Brian was Iranian “at his core” or not. Was Iran the place where Brian’s behavior and “rational” motive for the crime would make sense, or was it the place where his mental troubles began? These issues were integral to trial process which finally took place in March 2006 and included debates about Iranian legal and cultural norms around filicide and divorce. Brian was convicted of third-degree murder; he died in prison in August 2014. The research is based on court transcripts, media coverage, and interviews with many of the participants, including Brian. It is a micro history that illustrates the limits of assumptions we can infer from large studies of filicide, immigration/assimilation and the Iranian- American diaspora.