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‘You are lying’ — Crown challenges accused’s account of deadly night

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Placing his hands over the woman’s naked chest and then measuring down five or six ribs, counting down sets of 15 compressions, each followed by three breaths — Jitesh Bhogal described precisely how he performed CPR in his attempt to revive Autumn Taggart in her bedroom on June 10, 2018.

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“You want this jury to believe you performed CPR … but you don’t remember what happened seconds before?” asked assistant Crown attorney Ilana Mizel.

Bhogal testified he couldn’t recall many other details. He repeated earlier testimony that he also couldn’t recall exactly how he got into, or how he departed, Taggart’s west Windsor apartment in the early morning darkness.

Friday saw Bhogal in the witness stand for the second day of grilling by the prosecution. It was the end of the fifth week of testimony before Superior Court Justice Renee Pomerance and a 14-member jury tasked with deciding whether the 31-year-old engineer is guilty of sexual assault and murder.

Bhogal on Thursday confessed to having killed Taggart, 31, a complete stranger, but he claimed her death was “accidental” and the result of his trying to stop her screaming as she lay in bed, confronted by an intruder.

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“Ms. Taggart was fighting for her life that night,” Mizel said, recalling a pathologist’s testimony that the cause of death was “suffocation and multiple blunt force trauma.”

Bhogal responded: “It felt like that, yes.”

Mizel suggested to Bhogal that he was angry after having just been robbed of the cocaine he had paid a couple to get for him, his purported first time using the drug.

“I do not recall anger being a prevalent emotion,” he replied.

Mizel said he was “caught off-guard” by Taggart’s screaming. “I was certainly brought to my senses … and my memory starts for some reason. My memory starts at that point,” Bhogal replied.

Asked whether the screaming worried him that Taggart would alert police, he replied it was “possible that was in the back of my mind, sure. I don’t have a specific memory, so I can’t disagree.”

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Bhogal testified he stopped covering Taggart’s mouth when she stopped screaming. “Mr. Bhogal, you covered Ms. Taggart’s nose and mouth for a least 30 seconds,” said Mizel, pointing to a pathologist’s testimony that it would take approximately 30 seconds for a person to become unconscious. There was silence as the prosecutor had the courtroom “watch the clock” for half a minute.

“You knew at that moment, sir, that that would cause her death,” she said.

“I did not,” Bhogal responded. Mizel pointed out that the accused was a foot taller and about 60 pounds heavier than Taggart.

“You’re lying to us about what you remember and what you don’t remember, Mr. Bhogal,” said Mizel. After a pause, the response was: “Madame Crown, I made bad choices that night.”

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After some more back and forth, Mizel said: “While you made a series of bad choices that night, they were all intentional.”

Bhogal responded that those choices, including purchasing cocaine from strangers and entering Taggart’s apartment were “all with some intent, I suppose.”

Bhogal said he was afraid after that pair of strangers who robbed him of his cocaine darted from his vehicle in the parking lot of Taggart’s apartment building.

“You are lying to the jury about being fearful,” said Mizel, pointing out he could have left the scene at any time. Bhogal agreed that he was shouting out the name of one of them at that location in the middle of the night.

Mizel asked whether anything caught his eye or whether he noticed anyone in the windows of Taggart’s apartment building as he was screaming in the parking lot outside.

“I do not recall,” said Bhogal.

“Did someone tell you to be quiet?” Mizel asked.

“I do not recall,” Bhogal responded.

“You know what happened in Ms. Taggart’s apartment,” said Mizel. “I have a vague recollection,” Bhogal responded.

Mizel’s last question to the accused was whether he experienced “any hallucinations” that night.

“Like seeing flying dragons? No,” Bhogal replied.

The trial continues Monday with the next witness for the defence. It will be the sixth week of jurors hearing testimony.

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