Jury resumes deliberations in Patel trial

Woman is charged in husband's death

February 03, 2000|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore jury will resume deliberations today in the trial of Alpna Patel, a dentist from Canada who is accused of murdering her husband after he refused to shield her from a traditionalist Hindu father-in-law.

Patel is charged with first-degree murder, but the jury, which began deliberations yesterday, could decide to find her guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter.

Prosecutors contend that Patel stabbed her husband, Viresh Patel, at his Pimlico apartment in a fit of rage.

The defense argued that Patel acted in self-defense when Viresh attacked her after she threatened to leave him.

The couple, descendants of an elite Hindu caste, were wed in May 1998 in an arranged marriage. Patel, 27, lived with her in-laws in Buffalo, N.Y. Viresh was a doctor serving his residency at Union Memorial Hospital.

The case has captured international attention as both sides presented complicated arguments involving religion, marriage, family, murder and self-defense.

"It's like a jigsaw puzzle," defense attorney Edward Smith Jr. said during closing arguments yesterday. "We are fitting it together to finally show a picture."

Assistant State's Attorney Nita Mazumder argued that the 5-foot-tall, 120-pound Patel could not, as she claimed, have fended off an attack from her husband, who was 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighed about 160 pounds. Mazumder, mocking Patel's self-defense argument, said, "She is kind of like a child who was naughty and been caught in the act."

This brought an angry response from Smith, who said it is wrong to assume that men are more powerful than women.

Speaking to the jury of 11 women and one man, Smith compared his client to the biblical David, who was blessed with God's power when he fought and killed Goliath.

For the first time, Smith implied that Viresh's mother -- who was staying at her son's apartment the night he was killed -- might have thought she was covering up for her son when she washed the bloody knife before police arrived.

Smith criticized homicide Detective Marvin Sydnor for not fingerprinting the knife or collecting blood samples.

In his summation, Assistant State's Attorney William D. McCollum noted that a night stand was not disturbed during the struggle that Patel described. "She was in a life and death struggle, and not even her hair was messed up," McCollum said.

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