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Trial date set for man accused of killing his daughter and niece in Henrico

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Abdool Zaman appeared in court for a status hearing Tuesday morning, his first court appearance since being indicted with capital murder charges.

Zaman is accused of shooting his daughter, Vanessa Zaman, and her cousin by marriage Leona Samlall on December 13, 2018.

Earlier this month, a Henrico grand jury indicted the 39-year-old on two counts of capital murder. He now faces those charges along with the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony first and second offense.

Last December, police say Vanessa Zaman and Samlall were walking near the Oakmeade Apartments on airport drive. That's where Zaman reportedly confronted the two before allegedly shooting them to death.

Abdool Zaman, Vanessa Zaman, and Leona Samlall

The judge presiding in the hearing was prepared to set a trial date. But before coming to an agreement, the judge and Zaman’s attorney went back and forth on how much time they would have to prepare.

It was decided that they would have 12 months to get ready instead of the 24 months asked by Zaman’s attorney.

In a statement, legal expert Todd Stone says the reason behind the judge's decision on the trial date, is based on being fair and balanced:

"When setting a Court date, Judges always have to balance the defendant's due process rights with the potential harm to the government's case that could result from a lengthy delay. Lawyers defending capital murder allegations have a duty to create as many potential appealable issues as possible, but the Appellate Courts give Trial Judges great discretion in determining how much time is needed to prepare for trial. Consequently, a case will NOT be reversed unless the defense can show that the Judge abused their discretion in a manner that adversely impacts the rights of the defendant. This is a very high burden for the defense and a trial date some fifteen (15) months away is far longer than most cases receive. The defense may move for a continuance at a later date by showing that they still need more time despite their exercising due diligence to prepare. At this juncture, however, the court date doesn't seem abnormal."

The 15-day jury trial is set to begin August 3, 2020.

Vanessa Zaman’s mother, Saveeta Barnes was present during the hearing and just before it closed out, Abdool Zaman quickly said something to her that visibly upset her.

Monday, Barnes told CBS 6 that compelled to travel from Long Island, New York to Henrico County on for the hearing and to visit the site where her daughter was murdered.

"She was my baby. I hope she knows how much I loved her though," Barnes said.

Barnes says she had a short relationship with Vanessa's father, but ended it when her daughter was a toddler.

The grieving mother described Vanessa as an honors student, a gifted writer, and a beloved daughter.

"I never ever thought in a million years that she would die in the hands of her own father," Barnes said. "I still think it’s a bad dream. I think I'm going to wake up tomorrow and see it’s the worst dream I ever had."

Barnes said she hoped Zaman will be found guilty and sentenced to the death penalty.

"You know he sentenced me to a lifetime of pain and suffering, he has. He sentenced my family to it, you know everyone involved and for every tear I cry, he’s gonna cry a thousand.

Zaman’s next court hearing is set for July 10.

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