Jury continues deliberations in Bhogal murder trial

Article content

That Jitesh Bhogal killed Autumn Taggart in her bedroom in the early hours of June 10, 2018, is not in dispute.


Article content

The defence has conceded he killed the mother of a young boy but that he was so intoxicated by cocaine consumption that he didn’t know what he was doing and should therefore be found guilty of manslaughter.

What a Windsor jury has been deliberating behind closed doors since Monday at 5 p.m. — and will continue Wednesday — is to determine whether the young General Motors engineer is guilty of a much more serious charge.

If Bhogal, who was 27 at the time, had intent to kill the young mother then he’s guilty of second-degree murder. And if the jury determines that he also sexually assaulted her, which the prosecution alleges, it could then find him guilty of first-degree murder, which carries an automatic life sentence with no parole eligibility for 25 years.


Article content

Superior Court Justice Renee Pomerance spent more than two hours on Monday describing to jurors the relevant law, summarizing the evidence of the defence and the Crown that was introduced over six weeks of trial testimony by witnesses and experts, as well as outlining the closing arguments of the lawyers on both sides.

Pomerance told jurors their verdict must be unanimous and that if there is any “reasonable doubt” they must find in favour of the defendant. Guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, she explained, doesn’t mean probable or likely guilt, but that a determination of guilt also doesn’t require absolute certainty. Intoxication is not a defence, but “if intoxication prevents someone from understanding the consequences of actions, then it is a defence,” she said.


Article content

“Use your good common sense,” the judge instructed the jury.

Monday night, the jury sent a note to the judge, asking for “a definition of sexual assault as it applies to first-degree murder.” The judge reminded the jury that the allegation of sexual assault against Bhogal is based “entirely on circumstantial evidence.”

The trial heard DNA almost certainly belonging to Bhogal was found on Taggart’s breasts and anogenital area. While forgetting much of the encounter, Bhogal testified he recalled attempting CPR to revive Taggart, and the defence argued the DNA on Taggart’s body could also have been the result of “secondary transfer” from other objects.

Tuesday night, the jury requested hearing a recording of previous trial testimony by pathologist Dr. Elena Tugaleva, who performed the post-mortem examination, specifically related to the deceased’s anogenital injuries.


Article content

Taggart was a complete stranger to Bhogal. Her west Windsor apartment building was next door to a crack house frequented by two drug addicts who had encountered Bhogal that night and agreed to secure him cocaine, a drug he told the trial he had never used before and was “curious” to try.

Bhogal, who spent two days on the witness stand, most of the time spent under cross-examination by the Crown, testified he had no memory of key parts of the evening, including why and how he got into Taggart’s bedroom. He agreed under questioning that “it seems I climbed the balcony” to gain access and that it was “likely” he was in Taggart’s apartment in search of the drug dealer who had just ripped him off.

“Sometimes terrible things happen without intention,” defence lawyer Peter Thorning said Monday in his closing statement to the jury, adding his client was either severely intoxicated or suffering from cocaine-induced psychosis.

Assistant Crown attorney Kim Bertholet said in her closing that Bhogal was angry at being ripped off that night and that his version of events was “a series of self-serving explanations and convenient gaps in memory.” Taggart was killed to prevent her talking to police, the Crown alleges.

[email protected]

File source

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button