/ Modified may 17, 2024 2:02 p.m.

Former UA graduate student claims he didn't know killing professor was wrong

The trial for alleged UA shooter Murad Dervish continued this week.

superior_court_outside_hero Pima County Superior Court
C Greer

The first-degree murder trial of University of Arizona shooter Murad Dervish began to wrap up Thursday morning. The state put its last witness to the stand psychologist Dr. James Sullivan.

Dervish is being tried for seven felony charges including first-degree murder of University of Arizona professor Thomas Meixner. His counsel is arguing that the former graduate student was insane and could not understand that killing Meixner was wrong at the time of the shooting.

“After it happened, I knew what had happened was wrong,” Dervish said in a recording that was played in court. “In those moments that led up to it, I just felt like, I don't know, really. Just that I didn't think it was wrong.”

Instead, they are saying that Dervish should be found guilty except insane to second-degree murder. The prosecution used a psych evaluation conducted between Dervish and Sullivan last year to show his state of mind and what he thought of the shooting. Dervish holds that he went to the Harshbarger building to have a conversation with Meixner about being expelled and fired.

Transcript of an excerpt from the recording:

Dervish: I just didn’t think that it was wrong.

Sullivan: Explain. I mean you knew exactly where you were. You knew exactly who he was.

Dervish: Right.

Sullivan: And you attempted to leave immediately afterward and you got in your car and started driving to San Diego and that went down 85 because you didn’t want (them) to catch you in case they were looking for you on the way to San Diego.

Dervish: Yeah. I’m saying after it happened I fully understood that it was wrong.

Sullivan: So something happened where you're pulling the trigger, and shooting Dr. Meixner. But you're saying that at that time as you're pulling the trigger and going through 11 rounds–at that time–you didn’t know it was wrong.

Dervish: yeah. It just didn't feel like it was real to me. Like it didn't even feel like I was really there and it was really happening.

But, Sullivan said it was unlikely that Dervish did not know shooting someone was wrong as Dervish indicated that he knew what he did was illegal before and after the incident.

In that same recording, Dervish admitted that he was looking for revenge after believing Meixner, along with others, was conspiring against him. Dervish incorrectly believed Meixner was Jewish and showed in the recording that he had a history of sending antisemitic threats to a professor at San Diego State University.

“Hitler should have incinerated all of you Godd*** trash,” one threat read.

During Wednesday’s examinations, the defense’s psychologist Dr. Samuel Baker diagnosed Dervish with a multitude of disorders including autism, schizoaffective disorder, and more. However, Sullivan, in his expert opinion, believed that it would be rare to find someone who has multiple rare disorders.

Closing arguments will take place Monday afternoon.

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