TWIN FALLS — The lawyer for an Iranian refugee who was convicted of murder in Twin Falls in 2009 says his client plans to appeal a judge’s ruling dismissing most of their case.
On May 25, District Judge Richard Bevan dismissed most of Majid Kolestani’s claims in her appeal of her murder conviction, but said she could pursue a claim that her public defender should have filed a motion to suppress an interview she gave to police while she was in the hospital.
At a court appearance before Bevan Monday morning, Kolestani’s lawyer Kurt Schwab told Bevan that after talking to a medical expert they were not pursuing that claim. But he said they plan to appeal Bevan’s ruling dismissing her other claims.
Kolestani appeared with him in chains and an orange jail jumpsuit, with an interpreter who translated the proceedings into Farsi for her. Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Suzanne Craig represented the state.
Kolestani, who was born a man but identifies as a woman and goes by the name Nastaran, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. She pleaded guilty to shooting Ehsan Kababian to death — a friend of theirs told the Times-News at the time Kolestani was jealous of a woman Kababian was romancing in Iran. Both Kolestani and Kababian came here from Iran as refugees. She was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison and will be eligible for parole in 2026.
The case attracted widespread attention in southern Idaho at the time, the media coverage even prompting an unsuccessful motion from the defense to change venue. Kolestani did win a motion to be allowed to wear women’s clothes in court, but pleaded guilty before the trial would have started.
Bevan denied a motion Schwab made Monday to add to the official record a report he had received late last year from Jeremy Pittard, who was Kolestani’s lawyer before him. Pittard’s report says Kolestani will likely be detained indefinitely after her release from prison.
“ICE isn’t going to release a non-citizen with a first-degree murder conviction without a fight,” he wrote.
The filings also contains the 2012 finding from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, citing Kolestani’s murder conviction in denying her request for an adjustment in status.
Kolestani said she fears violence if she were returned to Iran, both from the authorities and others. USCIS found her fear “does not warrant a finding of extreme hardship” — retaliation from the victim’s family would be a consequence of the murder, and violence against people for being gay or transgender “is not unique to Iran” and happens in many countries including here, USCIS’s denial says.
“If the fear is based on the family being angry or unaccepting of the applicant’s relationship to the victim ... it is not so different than what many United States citizens have to contend with in regards to their family and friends accepting them and their choices,” it says.
Kolestani had also argued she did not enter into her plea agreement knowingly because she didn’t understand the immigration consequences and was told she would be deported if she didn’t plead guilty. She made several claims of receiving ineffective assistance of counsel aside from the one regarding the motion to suppress. Bevan rejected these claims in his May decision.