/ Modified may 21, 2024 3:24 p.m.

Former graduate student found guilty of first-degree murder of UA professor

A 12-person jury found Murad Dervish guilty of six felony charges, including aggravated assault and first-degree murder.

Thomas Meixner Memorial Flowers, candles and letters lay in front of the Harshbarger building sign following the murder of Professor Thomas Meixner on Wed. Oct. 5, 2022 at the University of Arizona. Meixner was killed by a former student on campus.
Paola Rodriguez/Arizona Public Media

Clarification: This story was updated to reflect that Murad Dervish will not be facing the death penalty

Murad Dervish, who killed University of Arizona professor Thomas Meixner in his campus office in 2022, was found guilty of six felony charges, including first-degree murder, by a 12-person jury trial Tuesday morning.

After being barred from campus in early 2022, Dervish entered the Harshbarger building in October later that year to have what he claims would have been a conversation with Meixner about his expulsion and firing from campus.

Dervish was enrolled in the Atmospheric Sciences graduate program starting in the fall of 2021. After an aggressive confrontation with members of the Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences departments regarding a test grade Dervish received and months of harassment, Dervish was eventually fired as a graduate teaching assistant and banned from campus. Meixner was one of the victims who received threats from Dervish

The guilty verdict applies to six of the seven felony charges, including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, first-degree burglary, three counts of endangerment, and first-degree murder. Prosecuting attorneys say Dervish’s seventh felony charge regarding misconduct involving weapons will be handled at another date.

The defense argued to the jury that Dervish should be found guilty except insane to second-degree murder saying he “lost his mind on Oct. 5, 2022.”

On the day of the murder, Dervish emptied the magazine of his handgun, shooting 11 rounds of which nine hit Meixner. Immediately after, Dervish attempted to flee the state driving on Highway 85 toward Mexico but police stopped his van using a PIT manuever.

The Meixner family settled a civil lawsuit with the Arizona Board of Regents in January of this year. After two internal and external safety investigations, the University of Arizona was found to have a decentralized and fractured risk management system which led to the killing of Meixner.

For nearly a year, Meixner, along with another student and other faculty, was subject to numerous threats via email, text, and in person. The settlement totaled $2.5 million and included an endowed professorship in the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences in the name of Thomas Meixner. The university will also provide continuing mental health treatment to HAS faculty, staff, and students as well as waive tuition/fees to certain HAS students impacted by the Oct. 5 shooting.

As Tuesday’s verdict was read, Kathleen–Meixner’s widow–and their two sons held hands and gasped as the guilty verdicts were read. Immediately after the court was dismissed, hugs of comfort and relief swarmed the halls just outside of the room as HAS department members and Meixner’s family gathered together.

The penalty for first-degree murder in Arizona is a life sentence in prison or the death penalty. However, Dervish will not face the death penalty. Dervish’s sentencing will take place on June 24th at 1:30 p.m.

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