After receiving a sentence of life in prison plus 10 years for stabbing her 11-year-old daughter and setting her home on fire, Taheerah Ahmad argued her mental health status made her legally incompetent to enter guilty pleas in the case.
A judge Friday disagreed and declined Ahmad’s request to withdraw them, prompting Ahmad to speak out in frustration at the court and spectators present for the proceedings.
“I saw you laughing at me,” Ahmad told District Judge Dawn Moody, adding: “Just say what you’re gonna say. You don’t have to humiliate me.”
Moody, who was reading a court transcript of an April 16 hearing during which Ahmad pleaded guilty, asserted she was not laughing and said she wanted to “make a complete record” explaining her decision.
When Moody asked Ahmad whether she understood her appeal rights, Ahmad said, “I understand that God is over you, and God is over everyone else in this room.”
She then requested immediate transportation back to Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud, overruling a request from her attorney, Justin Mosteller, to stay at the Tulsa County jail for 10 days to weigh her options.
Ahmad, 40, filed a motion May 24 asking to withdraw her pleas. Mosteller on Friday said staff at Mabel Bassett recently diagnosed Ahmad with schizophrenia and said he believed she was “profoundly mentally ill.”
He also argued Assistant Public Defender Lora Howard provided ineffective counsel by not proactively asking staff at the Tulsa County jail about Ahmad’s medication history while incarcerated.
But Assistant District Attorney Katie Koljack said Ahmad willfully agreed in April to plead guilty to the crimes of assault and battery with means likely to produce death, first-degree arson and two counts of child neglect. During a May 15 sentencing hearing, Moody said the court was “lucky” the case was not first-degree murder and told Ahmad she deserved life in prison because of the physical and psychological scars her children will have the rest of their lives.
“I am very sorry for what happened. I am sick to my stomach about what happened to my children,” Ahmad said Friday. However, she told Koljack, “I’ve lost everything,” and therefore, “I really don’t care” what happens.
Ahmad mentioned multiple times that she wanted sunglasses and headphones, both of which she said help her avoid sensory overload. She told Mosteller she believed going to prison rather than staying in jail would help her obtain those items.
Referencing her mindset before her May 15, 2018, arrest, Ahmad said, “I hadn’t slept for days. I couldn’t even run to the store without being afraid of people or what they were gonna do.”
In her arguments, Koljack said Ahmad “has a fine time answering her attorney’s questions” but “shuts down” when she is asked something she doesn’t like. At one point during her cross-examination, Ahmad asked Moody, “Do I have to keep talking to her?” and said “yes” when Koljack asked, “Are you just going to say no to everything I ask?”
While being escorted out of the courthouse, Ahmad made an obscene hand gesture at reporters and said, “Put that in the news.”
Ahmad told Mosteller she had been hospitalized before for what she said were mental health reasons and also said she asked Howard about a mental health-based defense. A records clerk at the jail said there was documentation of Ahmad having a diagnosis of psychosis not otherwise specified and of Ahmad taking medication, though her regimen was apparently discontinued in February.
Howard said she told Ahmad a defense of not guilty by reason of mental illness would be “very challenging” and would require a jury trial because the state would not agree to a bench trial.
“She said, ‘I am not going to trial. I will not put my children through a trial. That is not an option,’ ” Howard said. When Mosteller asked her why she didn’t seek a competency evaluation, she said, “I had no doubt as to (Ahmad’s) competency at any time during the pendency of this case.”
Court records indicate a family member found the 11-year-old in a pool of blood and observed Ahmad’s kitchen was on fire late May 14, 2018. Ahmad’s then-9-year-old daughter escaped their home and reported that Ahmad was stabbing her sister, who at the time was 11, which brought police to the residence.
Police issued an Amber Alert for Ahmad’s then-8-year-old daughter that night.
The next day, two women called authorities after seeing an SUV that matched the description in the Amber Alert, which led officers to Ahmad and her 8-year-old. Ahmad admitted to police that she stabbed her daughter repeatedly with a dagger and garden pick-axe, telling officers she thought the child wanted to hurt her.
Mosteller said after the hearing that he was “disappointed” in Moody’s decision and plans to file an appeal.
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