/ Modified may 7, 2024 5:50 p.m.

Trial begins in UA professor Thomas Meixner murder

Former grad student Murad Dervish pled not guilty to 7 felony counts, including 1st degree murder.

Police investigating a shooting at the University of Arizona
Samantha Larned/Arizona Public Media

This story contains explicit language that was used during cross examination.

Opening arguments and the cross-examination of witnesses for the trial of the alleged University of Arizona shooter Murad Dervish started Tuesday afternoon.

“This isn’t a case about whether or not the defendant was the one who pulled the trigger and shot and killed Professor Meixner,” prosecuting attorney Hayley Weigold said. “What it is about is the intentional killing of Professor Meixner and knowing right from wrong.”

Dervish faces seven felony charges–three counts of endangerment, misconduct involving weapons, first-degree burglary, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and first-degree murder. The defense did not give an opening argument.

In 2022, Dervish, a former graduate student, allegedly shot the University of Arizona Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences Department Head Thomas Meixner nine times in his campus office, killing him. For nearly a year before the shooting, Meixner along with other faculty, staff, and students reported threats made by Dervish to the university and its police department.

Dervish enrolled as an atmospheric sciences graduate student at the UA in the fall of 2021. He was then expelled from the university in February 2022 following threats and harassment he made to faculty and staff in his department.

Members of the HAS Department, along with Meixner’s family, attended Tuesday’s trial. Four witnesses took the stand, including the university police department Corporal Adrian Lizarraga, Corporal Elvis Sierra, former graduate student Kayla McCauley, and former Assistant Dean Veda Kowalski.

Kowalski was the first witness called to the stand, sharing the threats and harassment Dervish made over email following his expulsion.

Later, Lizarraga took the stand. He was one of the first officers to respond to the shooting in 2022. Lizarraga knew Dervish’s history before the October incident. In May of that year, Meixner reported threats he received from Dervish to Lizarraga.

While he was on the stand, the officer detailed the contents of Dervish’s email sent to Meixner.

“You’re a piece of s**** ,” the email read. “I hope somebody blows your f****** head off.”

Judge Howard Fell expects the 14-person jury trial to run for two weeks. The defense is expected to plead guilty except insane. However, until that decision is made by his counsel, Dervish intends to remain pleading not guilty.

“Just because someone may be afflicted with mental illness doesn’t automatically by the law say they are legally insane,” Weigold said in her opening statement.

By posting comments, you agree to our
AZPM encourages comments, but comments that contain profanity, unrelated information, threats, libel, defamatory statements, obscenities, pornography or that violate the law are not allowed. Comments that promote commercial products or services are not allowed. Comments in violation of this policy will be removed. Continued posting of comments that violate this policy will result in the commenter being banned from the site.

By submitting your comments, you hereby give AZPM the right to post your comments and potentially use them in any other form of media operated by this institution.
AZPM is a service of the University of Arizona and our broadcast stations are licensed to the Arizona Board of Regents who hold the trademarks for Arizona Public Media and AZPM. We respectfully acknowledge the University of Arizona is on the land and territories of Indigenous peoples.
The University of Arizona