A Woodland Hills man who claimed spousal abuse as the reason he killed his wife was sentenced Friday to 11 years in prison, the maximum term on his voluntary manslaughter conviction.
Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Kathryne Ann Stoltz cited the brutality of the killing in her sentencing of Moosa Hanoukai for the March 29, 1993, bludgeoning of Manijeh Hanoukai.
Moosa Hanoukai, 55, claimed he attacked his 45-year-old wife after a quarter-century of emotional abuse boiled over. He said he lashed out in a blind rage, saying his wife had constantly berated him and forced him to sleep on the floor.
His trial, which ended when a jury determined he acted in the heat of passion and was not guilty of murder, was dominated by his claim that he suffered from “Battered Husband Syndrome.”
Although disappointed by the stiff sentence, defense attorney James E. Blatt of Encino maintained that the voluntary manslaughter verdict was a “tremendous victory.”
Moosa Hanoukai will be eligible for parole in less than five years.
During the trial, there was testimony that his wife had been beaten more than 50 times with a wrench and her corpse left to rot for five days in the garage of the couple’s home. A half-dozen lengthy letters written by her relatives and submitted by prosecutors in a “victim impact statement,” chronicled alleged improprieties made by Moosa Hanoukai in his native Iran and eulogized his wife as a caring woman who in no way abused her husband.
Amid heavy security, the courtroom was packed with friends and relatives split between those who believe his story of emotional abuse and those who believe he senselessly killed.
But the sentencing hearing was a quiet affair, punctuated only by the emotion of Ebrahim Houshanian, Manijeh’s 77-year-old father.
“I only want you to visualize the scene . . . how she was struggling under this guy and there was no one there to save her,” a hysterical Houshanian said to the judge.
As Stoltz passed judgment, she noted that Manijeh Hanoukai “must have suffered a great deal before her death.
“He beat her over and over again for an extensive period of time until he was exhausted,” the judge said as she overlooked a defense plea to sentence Moosa Hanoukai either to probation or the minimum prison term of three years.
Outside court, Delaram Hanoukai, the couple’s daughter, said Stoltz’s comments showed “the real truth, the real justice.”
“But it will never bring my mother back,” she said, describing pride for her mother and how much she will miss her on Friday, when Delaram graduates from USC as a dentist.
The 25-year-old said she continues to find herself in the bitter situation of grieving for her mother, but unable to seek vengeance against the killer.
While still expressing respect for her father, Delaram said he lied about his domestic life while he testified. Hanoukai was “definitely not” a battered husband, she said.
“I don’t approve of what he did, but he is my father,” she said. “I can’t say that I love him, but he is my father.”
The architect of the unique defense strategy which argued Hanoukai was emotionally abused--and that this was exacerbated by his Persian Jewish heritage--said the 11-year sentence may have been designed to send a message to those who rely on a psychological defense in a homicide case.
Defense attorney Blatt went on to wonder if a wife who kills her husband would receive the same stiff sentence.
“We’re much more inclined to think this only happens to a woman,” Blatt said, “and when it happens to a man perhaps we’re much less understanding.”
Defense attorneys said they may appeal Stoltz’s sentencing decision.