May 18, 2000 (Iviews.com) -- The prosecution of a Muslim-American woman's murder was inspired by a 1999 documentary which highlighted the issue of "honor killings" in Jordan.
The case stems from a 1999 investigation into the murder of 21 year-old Methal Dayem, an Arab-American Muslim woman who lived in the Cleveland, Ohio suburb of Lakewood. The prosecution said that two of Dayem's cousins, Yazen Dayem and Musa Saleh, both in their early 20's, killed her for dishonoring her family.
"They killed her because she had too many American friends and because she hung out at bars...and as I understand it, good Arab girls are not expected to go to bars," said assistant prosecutor Dan Kasaris.
The murder happened in January of 1999. Methal Dayem was found lying near her car by a passerby who then called 911. She was pronounced dead shortly after arriving by medic at a nearby Cleveland hospital. Authorities determined she died as a result of gunshot wounds to the back of the head, said Kasaris.
Cleveland police first suspected Dayem and Saleh after receiving a number of anonymous tips. They also found evidence that a cell phone call was made from a phone owned by Dayem's uncle within a mile of the crime scene around the time of the murder, said Kasaris.
Saleh's attorney said the evidence did not put his client at the crime scene and believed a lack of evidence forced the prosecutor to first focus on a motive.
"Instead of looking at the evidence, the prosecutor started with a motive and tried to make the evidence fit. There was no evidence in this case that this was an honor killing or that my client was involved," said Jerome Emoff, Saleh's attorney.
The lead prosecutor in the case, Carmen Marino, reportedly saw a 20/20 episode in which Diane Sawyer reported on a Jordanian man who allegedly killed his sister because of an alleged sex scandal, said Kasaris, who also worked on the case.
"He (Carmen Marino) saw a documentary on honor killings and then talked to Diane Sawyer about it. I don't know if she called him or he called her, but he tied the two together," said Kasaris.
Marino was in trial most of the day and could not be reached for comment, but Saleh's lawyer said Sawyer talked about the Cleveland case on national television.
"Diane Sawyer has announced on 20/20 that that is where the prosecutor got his case...from the program that she had aired on honor killings," said Emoff.
The case inflamed members of the local Arab and Muslim community who felt that the prosecutor's case was based on negative stereotypes. "I can't speak for the Arab community, but I spoke with many leaders, including an Imam who was very upset about this," Emoff said. "This is a case in which a very experienced prosecutor tried to carry out an extremely inflammatory, very emotional motive to cover up a weak case, and the judges ruling was consistent with that," he said.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Eileen Gallagher, saying there was no evidence that he killed his cousin, dismissed the murder case against Musa earlier this month. A pre-trial hearing for Dayem is scheduled in the next several weeks.