The trial of a former Binghamton University graduate student accused of killing a professor by stabbing him multiple times with a knife is scheduled to begin Tuesday , with the student's mental state seen as a key issue in the case.
Abdulsalam al-Zahrani, 46, will go on trial in Broome County Court nearly 15 months after he was accused of stabbing Richard Antoun, an emeritus professor of anthropology, in Science Building 1 on the Binghamton University campus.
County Court Judge Martin E. Smith has booked two weeks for the trial, said Broome County District Attorney Gerald Mollen, who will prosecute the case along with Joann Rose Parry, chief assistant DA.
Mollen would not discuss the case in advance but said the defense has filed notice of a psychiatric defense. Such a notice must be filed if psychiatric issues are to be raised during the trial.
Psychiatric evidence will show al-Zahrani lacked substantial capacity to know or appreciate the nature and consequences of his conduct, New York City-based defense attorney Frederica Miller wrote in court documents filed last July.
"The defendant was psychotic and suffering from longstanding major mental illness, schizoaffective disorder," Miller wrote in the notice of intent to use psychiatric evidence. Schizoaffective disorder is a condition in which a person experiences a combination of schizophrenia symptoms -- such as hallucinations or delusions -- and of mood disorder symptoms, such as mania or depression, information from the Mayo Clinic indicates.
Neither Miller nor Vincent Accardi, of Binghamton, who is al-Zahrani's local attorney, would comment this week. The defendant's legal expenses are being paid by the consulate of Saudi Arabia.
Mollen said the prosecution had its own doctors examine al-Zahrani.
Al-Zahrani was a doctoral student in BU's anthropology department. Antoun, 77, an expert on Middle Eastern cultures, had published several well known works, including a book about fundamentalism.
In previous interviews, al-Zahrani's roommates described him as confrontational in days before the stabbing and upset about losing financing for a doctoral project in anthropology.
Following the stabbing, BU established a Student of Concern Committee, which brings together administrators from across the campus to make a more informed response to students in distress, said Gail Glover, director of media relations.
Al-Zahrani has been in the Broome County jail without bail. A conviction on the second-degree murder charge would carry a minimum sentence of 15 years to life and a maximum of 25 years to life.