Scoffs of the late Rama Gauravarapu’s family filled the courtroom as Tejwant Danjou’s defence lawyers painted him as a man who was so in love that it “drove him crazy.”
As the Crown rested its case in Danjou’s second-degree murder trial on Tuesday, June 2, defence lawyer Donna Turko picked up hers, giving the court a different representation of the man who had been previously shown to the courts, through numerous witnesses, to be abusive, controlling and jealous.
In her brief opening statement, Turko submitted that Danjou, in addition to harbouring severe jealousy, was mentally unwell at the time he bludgeoned his common-law partner to death with a wine bottle in a West Kelowna hotel room on July 22, 2018.
“We’ve heard it from the victim herself,” Turko said. “Words to the effect of ‘you’re crazy’, ‘your head’s not working’.”
Turko said Danjou became delusional about Gauravarapu having relationships with other men.
“It tormented him,” she said. “At the time of the tragic death of Ms. Gauravarapu, Mr. Danjou did not have the requisite intent to commit the murder of the woman he loved so much.”
If the defence can prove that Danjou did not have intent to kill Gauravarapu, or couldn’t form it due to his mental state, he could end up being convicted of manslaughter rather than second-degree murder.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Todd Tomita, the defence’s first witness, provided some insight into Danjou’s delusion.
Through two interviews with Danjou, amounting to six hours total, Tomita diagnosed Danjou with delusional disorder-jealous type.
“A delusion is by definition, a false, fixed idea that’s held with subjective certainty,” Tomita testified. “If that idea is influencing someone’s interpretation of events, then it can affect their decision making in a way that they’re not making decisions on objective, consensual reality. They’re making it based on their delusional interpretation of what is occurring.”
Tomita drew several examples of Danjou’s pathological jealousy from the six hours they spent speaking at Okanagan Correctional Centre, one of which stemmed from a 2018 flight Danjou and Gauravarapu took to Las Vegas.
Danjou claimed to Tomita that Gauravarapu had “hiked up her dress” while on the plane, allowing the man in the seat next to her to “flirt and fondle her.”
“I took it as nothing, but he said a man sitting next to him fondled her leg,” Tomita said.
Even something as simple as “endearing eyes” from Gauravarapu to one of Danjou’s friends led to fights between the two, Tomita told the courts.
Danjou upheld this belief after Gauravarapu’s death, according to the testimony of one officer tasked with keeping custody of Danjou on the night of his arrest.
Const. Rick Goodwin testified Danjou wanted the RCMP to check a Ford F150 in Surrey that contained “crucial evidence” of Gauravarapu’s infidelity.
In March, the court heard RCMP discovered Danjou hiding in a dumpster shortly after Gauravarapu was found covered in blood, clinging to life in their nearby West Kelowna hotel room. She died a short time after RCMP’s arrival and Danjou was arrested.
Danjou — who entered a surprise guilty plea as the trial commenced on Feb. 25 before retracting it the next day — has admitted to causing Gauravarapu’s life-ending injuries but did not admit to having the intention to kill her, the latter being a key component of a second-degree murder conviction.
The trial resumed on Monday (June 1) after two and a half months of delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two weeks have been set aside for the completion of Danjou’s judge-alone trial.
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