Closing arguments made in Patel trial

Jurors to continue deliberations today

September 14, 2000|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Jurors in Alpna Patel's manslaughter trial are scheduled to resume deliberating today, after attorneys engaged in fiery closing arguments yesterday that included a flurry of personal attacks.

Amid shouts echoing from the jury room, jurors deliberated for less than two hours before asking Circuit Judge John N. Prevas if they could resume this morning. The apparently contentious deliberations mirrored the tenor of closing arguments by Assistant State's Attorney William McCollum and defense attorney Edward Smith Jr.

Smith referred to McCollum as "Still Bill" and "Tricky Bill." McCollum replied that Smith "wasn't arguing the facts, he was arguing his own ego." McCollum also called Patel - who wed her husband in an arranged Hindu marriage 10 months before his death - a "poor little rich girl."

That comment caused Smith to ask for a mistrial because McCollum - who several times spoke directly to about 20 U.S. and Canadian reporters covering the trial - was "playing to the peanut gallery." Prevas denied the motion.

Patel, a Canadian dentist, is accused of stabbing her husband, Viresh Patel, in his Northwest Baltimore apartment 18 months ago after he refused to hear her demands for saving their marriage. Defense attorneys contend that Patel acted in self-defense after her husband, who was completing a medical residency at Union Memorial Hospital, attacked her when she threatened to leave him.

For most of the seven-day trial, McCollum did not rebut defense attorneys' self-defense argument or Patel's claim that her father-in-law mistreated her. For the first time yesterday, McCollum laid out a methodical case for jurors and said there were several inconsistencies in Patel's story.

McCollum argued that Patel became angry when her husband fell asleep as she read him 39 handwritten points to save their marriage. Most of the points dealt with how Patel was treated by her father-in-law, who follows traditional Hindu customs, such as requiring sons and their wives to live with the sons' parents.

Viresh Patel "was lying down as his wife was reading the points, and she was well-prepared" to talk, McCollum said. "Finally, the victim fell asleep, and that was provoking, and it caused anxiety, and she reacted."

McCollum noted that Viresh Patel received six stab wounds, but Alpna Patel was not injured.

During closing arguments, Smith said Patel was a professional woman victimized by an arranged marriage.

Responding to McCollum's claim that Patel could not fend off an attack from her husband because she is a foot shorter, Smith began throwing jabs like a boxer and said: "When two people are on a bed tussling or struggling, what difference does it make?"

After closing arguments, Prevas dismissed the three alternate jurors - two of whom predicted grueling deliberations. "I can't decide," said Adrian Ewell.

Karen Braxton said she had hoped to have a say in the verdict. "I believe her, I just feel like she got caught up, and it is sad. I don't believe she has vengeance in her heart. ... I think the truth will prevail."

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