TAMPA — There is a huge reason many defendants choose not to testify at their trials:
But Khalid Pasha, 69, is not like many defendants. Facing the death penalty, he opted not for an attorney specially qualified to handle capital cases. Instead, he chose himself.
And facing physical evidence that he murdered his wife and her daughter, he told a story that placed him at the murder scene with them alive, then happening upon their bodies, then driving away without telling anybody.
Robin Canady, 43, and Ranesha Singleton, 20, were found dead the night of Aug. 23, 2002, their throats slit, in the most remote corner of the complex where they worked, the Woodland Corporate Center on Waters Avenue.
Deputies stopped Pasha as he was leaving the complex. They found fresh blood on his face and clothes and on a knife inside his van.
On Thursday, he told jurors his wife called him to the complex that night. He was with her and her stepdaughter in her car, but they were separated at one point. And the next time he saw them, they were dead.
The blood on his suit? He cradled one of the bodies — the innocent act of a man who had just lost his family. Earlier, he said he had killed a rabbit.
The knife in the van? He'd never seen it. Except that he later said it was from his yard. But he didn't put blood on it.
Why didn't he call for help on one of his two cellphones?
Why didn't he tell deputies?
"I'm not from Florida," he said. "I know people down here are friendly. Where I'm from … Indiana … you don't communicate with people you don't know."
Assistant State Attorney Jalal Harb questioned Pasha like a prosecutor might in a movie — ardent, accusatory:
"Isn't it true, Mr. Pasha, that was the guilty conscience in you, sir?"
"You're very unlucky. Isn't that what you think you are?"
"You killed these two ladies. The question is why?"
But Pasha insisted he was telling the truth.
The jury reconvenes this morning.