A Hacienda Heights gynecologist accused of strangling and dismembering his 11-year-old son was found not guilty Wednesday, two years after Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner personally announced the murder charges and called for the death penalty.
Khalid Parwez, 40, formerly a physician at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in West Los Angeles, clutched his attorney's hand and wept as the verdict was read at noon in Pomona Superior Court.
Stepping into a side room a few minutes later, he was greeted with applause and cheers from the jurors, many of whom said afterward that they did not believe at any point in the two-month trial that he was culpable.
"We feel an innocent man has been put through hell," said juror Charlie Guggino, 42, of San Dimas.
Parwez, who had been held in Los Angeles County jail in lieu of $8 million bail since shortly after the slaying of his son, Raheel, on Nov. 17, 1987, declined to make any public comments.
But his lawyer, Leslie H. Abramson, accused Reiner of exploiting the case for political gain.
"I want the people of Los Angeles County to know that your district attorney thinks innocent people deserve the death penalty," said Abramson, adding that the jury's verdict proves that "what Ira Reiner did was wrong."
Reiner, who is attending a conference of district attorneys in San Francisco this week, could not be reached for comment. Assistant Dist. Atty. Curt Livesay, however, called Abramson's remarks "nonsense."
"We did it based on the evidence and I think the evidence speaks for itself," Livesay said. "It's just hard for people to believe that a medical doctor could do this to his own son."
The verdict represents yet another high-profile courtroom defeat for Reiner, who was elected in 1984 and is running for state attorney general. His office last week failed to win convictions in the McMartin Pre-School molestation trial, and earlier lost the 1987 Twilight Zone case involving the death of actor Vic Morrow and two children.
In the Parwez case, Reiner had made a personal appearance at the Pomona courthouse to announce the charges Dec. 7, 1987, contending that "if there ever was a case in which the death penalty is deserved, it's this case." A judge later threw out the special circumstances that would have allowed prosecutors to seek the death penalty, citing a California Supreme Court ruling that stated that, at the time, such allegations were unconstitutionally vague.
Parwez had been arrested the week before, shortly after Raheel's remains were found Nov. 17, 1987, in a trash bin behind a Hacienda Heights apartment complex, about a mile from the home he shared with his father.
The doctor's brother, Sattar Ahmed, 29, also was charged with the murder but disappeared shortly after the body was discovered. Authorities suspect he has returned to his native Pakistan.
The bulk of the case against Parwez was based on circumstantial evidence aimed at linking him to the apartment where prosecutors believe the slaying occurred.
His fingerprints were found on the stove there, as well as on a saw blade and on a plastic shopping bag. Records showed that he had provided Ahmed with the money used to rent the apartment days before the killing. And Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard D. Burns contended that only a person with the doctor's surgical skill would have been able to carve the boy into more than 200 pieces.
But jurors, who deliberated a total of 11 days over the last three weeks, called the evidence inconclusive. As long as Parwez's brother remained at large, they said, there was always more than a reasonable doubt that the doctor was guilty.
"It wasn't a tough decision at all," said Tim Hynes, 35, a juror from Diamond Bar.
The question of motive in the case baffled nearly everyone involved. Burns speculated that Parwez feared losing custody of Raheel, and his other son, Nabeel, from his ex-wife, Amtul. A custody hearing had been scheduled for the day after the murder.
Abramson, however, contended that the doctor was never in danger of losing custody.
Whoever committed the murder, one juror said, "it was done by a madman."