A Burnaby man charged in the 2016 death of a Guelph, Ont. hotel manager has been found guilty of first-degree murder after an almost six-week trial by jury - just under 24 hours after the jury began deliberations.
The jury in the first-degree murder trial against Raja Dosanjh began deliberations on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. Word was received that it had made a decision shortly before 2:30 p.m Thursday.
Dressed in a dark grey suit and horn-rimmed glasses, Dosanjh entered the courtroom shortly after 2:30 p.m, accompanied by armed police officers. Several Guelph Police officers attended in the public gallery.
After the verdict was read, Dosanjh stared emotionless at members of the jury before turning to his family, still emotionless, but raising his eyebrows slightly.
Members of Dosanjh's family and supporters were seated in the galley directly behind him, some sobbing after the verdict was read.
As Dosanjh was removed from the court room after the verdict, he looked at his family and smiled, then looked at two women seated on the other side and raised his eyebrows.
One of the women exclaimed, “My son is gone, now he’s going to rot in jail.”
First-degree murder was the only charge for the jury to consider. It could not find Dosanjh guilty of a lesser charge, like second-degree murder or manslaughter in the March 1, 2016 killing of Comfort Inn manager Aly Sunderani.
Dosanjh was sentenced to life imprisonment, with no chance of parole for 25 years. The sentence begins on the date of his Feb. 25, 2017 arrest.
He is under a no-contact order with the victim's, sister and her partner, as well as the victim's mother. A weapons ban is also in effect and Dosanjh must submit his DNA.
Asked if he wished to address the court before sentencing, Dosanjh said, “I do not wish to.”
Family members of Sunderani did not wish to provide victim impact statements prior to sentencing.
Final arguments in the trial wrapped up on Monday and the six-man, six-woman jury was given final instructions by Justice Gordon Lemon on Wednesday.
After the verdict was read, Lemon thanked the jury for their time and attention.
One of the key facts being decided in the case is eyewitness testimony that identifies a white person with a bald or balding head as the shooter.
During the trial, Dosanjh's brother-in-law Dalvir Passi testified that two white, bald men picked up the rental car that was linked to Dosanjh's. The defence has argued that it was those men who carried out the shooting of Sunderani, not Dosanjh.
Passi further testified that his wife Mandy Passi told him there was an eyewitness account, but he said she did not tell him the person seen at the scene was white.
On Thursday morning, the jury posed a question to the judge during its deliberations. Lemon was asked: 'If we believe Mandy Passi did not tell her husband about a white guy can we infer Dalvir got it from someone else?'
Lemon called the jury back into the courtroom Wednesday morning and told jurors they have to assess the evidence they have and the reliability and credibility of any witnesses.
The jurors were called in once more a short time later after defence attorneys pointed out that Lemon told jurors, 'Should you reject Mr. Passi's evidence -- and you should.' They argued that it sounded as if Lemon was instructing the jurors to reject Passi's testimony.
When he told jurors that was not the impression he intended to give, several jurors nodded in agreement that the instruction was confusing. Lemon apologized to all involved before sending the jury back into deliberations.
The jury was told by Lemon on Wednesday the issue at hand is whether or not Dosanjh fired the weapon beyond a reasonable doubt for him to be found guilty of first-degree murder and whether that act was planned in advance.
Over the course of the five-week trial, jurors heard Sunderani was returning to the hotel on the afternoon of March 1, 2016. Soon after pulling his Black Range Rover into the car port near the hotel entrance, surveillance video showed him fall to the ground and a figure ran out of the frame. He was found shot partway inside the Range Rover, with bullet holes observed in the side of his vehicle.
Sunderani was shot multiple times in the chest, arms and abdomen with a submachine gun, which was left at the scene. He was later pronounced dead.
Dosanjh was arrested a year later during a B.C. traffic stop by the RCMP.