Severe bipolar disorder is the reason Narjes Modarresi buried her 2-month-old son alive in 2010, her lawyers said Wednesday during opening statements in her capital murder trial.
"You will hear from a doctor who believes that 'but-for' the severe mental illness suffered by Narjes Modarresi, this tragedy would not have occurred," defense attorney George Parnham told jurors in opening statements in Harris County District Court.
Prosecutors are seeking life without parole for Modarresi, 32, and said she knew exactly what she was doing to her son.
"She woke up on April 21, 2010 and decided to kill Masih Golabbakhsh," Assistant Harris County District Attorney Sunni Mitchell said. "He was a child she never wanted and never loved. He was in her way."
The baby, her second child, died after being buried facedown in the mud near Buffalo Bayou in west Houston.
Modarresi originally told police that two men in a beige Chevrolet had kidnapped her son while she was walking him in a stroller.
However, prosecutors said a neighbor saw Modarresi walking calmly, then begin to run and crash the stroller, without a baby, into a curb. The 32-year-old then ran away as she called 911 and said her son was kidnapped, prosecutors said.
After police spoke to the neighbor, they confronted Modarresi, who eventually led them to the baby's shallow grave, prosecutors said.
For the past four years, Parnham told jurors, Modarressi has been psychologically evaluated. He said jurors will see her medical records, including evidence of two suicide attempts in her teens. She also forced an emergency landing of an international flight in Qatar after she had a psychotic episode on the plane coming from a visit to her native Iran.
If a defendant is convicted, Parnham has said, mental health issues can be factors for possible mitigation of punishment. According to the Mayo Clinic, bipolar disorder is associated with mood swings ranging from depression to the highs of mania. It's a long-term, disruptive condition but can be treated with medications and psychological counseling.
Modarresi would automatically be sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted of capital murder. If the jury convicts her of a lesser offense, such as murder, potential punishment ranges from five years to life in prison.