Resentencing Ahead In '87 Murder Case

Posted: July 03, 1990

Jury selection began yesterday in the resentencing of Joseph L. Young, who was convicted in 1987 of stabbing to death two internationally known Islamic scholars in their Cheltenham home.

When convened, this panel will be the second to decide whether Young, also known as Yusuf Ali, should live the rest of his life in prison or die in the electric chair for the slayings of Isma'il and Lois al-Faruqi four years ago.

The 1987 jury that convicted Young on two counts of first-degree murder also condemned him to death. But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court set aside the sentence in March, stating that the trial judge had improperly instructed the jury on how to impose the death sentence.

The new jury also will be the first in Montgomery County to decide the penalty in a criminal case without hearing the trial, according to Michael D. Marino, Montgomery County district attorney. A recent change in state law directs prosecutors to take the issue of life and death back to a jury when an error occurs in the penalty phase. The prior law automatically sentenced a defendant to life imprisonment in the same situation.

Dressed in sienna-colored prison garb, Young was almost immobile during most of yesterday's legal proceedings, occasionally moving to pour himself water from a pitcher on the defense table.

The Faruqis were fatally stabbed with a 15-inch survival knife during the early morning hours of May 27, 1986. Lois Faruqi was attacked in the kitchen, and her husband's body was found in an upstairs study.

Young was arrested seven months after the killings when an anonymous tip to a national crime-reporting hotline pointed police in his direction. Young's fingerprints matched prints on a pair of surgical gloves left on a windowsill of the couple's home in the Wyncote section of Cheltenham.

The deaths caused alarm as Arab-Islamic leaders theorized that the killings were political assassinations and ethnically motivated.

Isma'il Faruqi, 65, was a Palestinian-born senior professor at Temple University who taught Islamic studies. He was also a writer and adviser to nations around the world. His 60-year-old wife was an American-born pianist and author who converted to the Islamic faith. Known as Lamya, she taught Islamic art and architecture at Temple.

Young's defense at his trial was that he suffered delusions and was ordered to kill the couple by the voice of the Islamic prophet Mohammed. According to court testimony, he believed that the Faruqis were forcing Muslim students to perform homosexual acts for scholarships to Temple and that their deaths would be punishment.

Although the jury rejected the claim of mental illness in 1987, attorney Stephen G. Heckman said yesterday that he would argue that Young was mentally and emotionally disturbed at the time of the killings and could not conform to the law.

"Hopefully, the jury will understand he has some serious problems and doesn't deserve to die for this," Heckman said.

Marino said he would stress Young's criminal record, which includes several convictions for aggravated assault and one for shooting and wounding his wife. She is expected to testify for the prosecution.

Marino also is expected to call as witnesses the couple's two daughters, who now live in Ohio. One of the daughters, Anmar al-Zein, was six months pregnant and visiting her family's home at the time of the attack. Young stabbed her several times in the chest and arms, requiring 200 stitches to close the wounds.

Attorneys for both sides agreed yesterday on only one juror, an Abington businessman. Marino said the selection process was expected to last until Friday, with the court proceeding then taking one to two weeks.

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