The murder trial of a Surrey man charged with killing his wife in a West Kelowna hotel room in 2018 boils down to the argument of one issue: Intent.
If Surrey resident Tejwant Danjou did intend to kill his wife when he bludgeoned her over the head with a bottle of wine, he will be convicted of second-degree murder for the death of his common-law partner Rama Gauravarapu, as is argued by the Crown. If he did not have intent — or was unable to form it as his defence lawyer suggests — he will instead be convicted of manslaughter and likely face a far less severe sentence.
The opposing lawyers gave their closing arguments on the matter on Friday, July 3.
While the defence admitted Danjou’s responsibility for Gauravarapu’s life-ending injuries sustained as he took a wine bottle to her head on July 22, 2018, they said the Crown had not proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, Danjou intended to kill her— an integral part of any murder conviction. As such, defence lawyer Donna Turko said Danjou should instead be convicted of manslaughter.
The defence’s argument lies heavily on a diagnosis of Danjou’s “delusional disorder—jealous type” given by Dr. Todd Tomita, a forensic psychiatrist who was called as the defence’s only witness in early June.
According to Turko, Danjou’s jealousy was present throughout much of the relationship between the Surrey realtor and Gauravarapu. The court has heard in the past of several claims Danjou had made about his partner’s infidelity.
His state of mind on the night of the murder was also called into question.
“[Danjou] did not comprehend that the victim’s death would result from the injuries,” said defence lawyer Donna Turko.
When found in a dumpster near the scene, Danjou had both his phone and wallet on him, said Turko. She argued this showed his lack of thought process and a perturbed mental state, as he could have hailed a cab while trying to flee the scene.
In the hospital on the night of Gauravarapu’s death, Danjou seemed more interested in having officers investigate his partner’s infidelity than the charges he was facing for second-degree murder, Turko said, adding he was fixated on “evidence” proving his stance that existed in a truck in Surrey. She claimed this as further evidence of his lacking comprehension of the situation he was in.
The Crown argued that Danjou should be found guilty of the second-degree murder of Gauravarapu, saying their job is to prove intent, not whether Danjou was capable of advanced reasoning.
Crown counsel Michael Lefebure cited several cases in which people were convicted of second-degree murder despite being diagnosed with psychiatric conditions.
Though admitting the Crown and defence agree on many key facts of the case, he said the court’s decision should be based on evidence, not speculation.
“Nothing but speculation supports the argument that Danjou didn’t have the requisite intent for murder,” said Lefebure.
Lefebure also delved into the troubled relationship of Gauravarapu and Danjou in his final submissions, saying the relationship was ripe with domestic violence — the full extent of which was not reported to RCMP — and was nearing its end as the two went on their trip to West Kelowna. He claims after the two argued while at Mission Hill Family Estate winery in West Kelowna on the day of Gauravarapu’s death, she announced her plan to leave Danjou.
The Crown claimed Danjou’s conduct around the time of the offence show he was acting purposefully, was not meaningfully impaired and could see the consequences of his actions when he “brutally murdered” Gauravarapu.
Gauravarapu’s death came after a sustained attack, Crown said, with the autopsy showing 52 different injuries and claiming the official cause of death as multiple blunt-force trauma. Lacerations to her face, head and neck were consistent with defensive wounds, the autopsy found. Lefebure said based on evidence given at the trial, the attack lasted between 13 and 16 minutes.
“They were landing where they could do the most damage,” Lefebure said of Danjou’s blows to Gauravarapu.
The difference between manslaughter and murder heavily rests in whether the suspect intended to kill. Homicide with intent is murder and homicide without intent is manslaughter — and the two carry very different sentences.
If he’s convicted of second-degree murder — the charge for which he currently stands trial — Danjou will face an immediate life sentence. A sentencing hearing would determine how long he would serve before becoming eligible for parole, from a minimum of 10 years to a max of 25. A manslaughter conviction, without the use of a firearm, contains no mandatory minimum and sentences can vary wildly between cases with a maximum of a life sentence.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Allison Beames is anticipated to return with her decision on August 13 at 10 a.m. and sentencing could happen as soon as August 14.
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