Former Arizona graduate student convicted of killing professor gets life in prison

Gavel. Murad Dervish

TUCSON, Ariz. — A former graduate student convicted of killing a University of Arizona professor nearly two years ago was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Monday.

Murad Dervish, 48, was sentenced for the fatal shooting of Thomas Meixner, 52, the head of the university’s Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences, on Oct. 5, 2022, The Arizona Republic reported. In addition to the life sentence, 14 years were added.

Dervish was also sentenced to 7 1/2 years for aggravated assault, 3 1/2 years for burglary, and one year each for three counts of endangerment, according to KOLD-TV. Those will be served consecutive to the natural life sentence.

Dervish was in the master’s degree program in atmospheric sciences at the university and had been expelled months before the shooting, according to The Associated Press.

On May 21, a Pima County jury took less than three hours to convict Dervish of the charges, the Republic reported.

Dervish had been banned from the university’s campus, was armed with a Ruger 9mm handgun when he walked into the John Harshbarger building, the Arizona Daily Star reported. According to court documents, Dervish waited until classes ended and then confronted Meixner in a hallway.

Meixner allegedly fired 11 shots while chasing the professor, court documents stated.

Prosecutors said that in the days leading up to the attack, Dervish had been living in his van, the Daily Star reported.

The defendant’s attorney wanted him to be found guilty except insane, telling the jury that Dervish did not know right from wrong and was psychotic, paranoid and delusional, according to the Republic.

Prosecutors countered by stating that the murder was premeditated and showed threatening emails and evidence that Dervish planned to kill Meixner in the weeks and months leading up to the shooting, the newspaper reported.

“It’s a homicide case where my co-counsel and I defended it on what we had,” Leo Masursky, an attorney who defended Dervish in court, told KOLD. “Other than that, I can’t characterize it, you know, comparing it to any other case.”

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