West Chester quadruple murder suspect waives right to jury trial
Gurpreet Singh signed a waiver on Monday to opt for a bench trial.
Singh’s case is a death penalty case which means a three-judge panel will make the ruling.
Both the defense and the prosecution still have to be ready to present their cases in April 2024 because the trial date has not changed.
Sing had been awaiting the start of his second trial in April 2024 for the 2019 deaths of his wife Shalinderjit Kaur, her parents, Parmjit Kaur and Hakiakat Singh Pannag, and his wife’s aunt, Amarjit Kaur at the Lakefront at West Chester apartment complex.
After an 11 to 1 vote to convict, the defense team and Singh decided to change things up by opting for the bench trial.
Legal analyst Mike Allen explains the possible reasoning for the move.
“It’s a matter of strategy as to why,” says Allen. “As I sit here now, I don’t have an answer to that, but he’s got experienced council and I guess from a strategic point of view, they figured it would be easier to convince [a jury] of the guilty and then, of course, the second phase is the penalty phase and maybe they think the three-judge panel will be more sympathetic to their client.”
In April, Singh was given another legal team for the retrial.
Mark Wieczorek and Alex Deardorff replaced three court-appointed attorneys to represent Singh, court filings show.
Because he faces the death penalty, his attorneys had to meet state-required death penalty representation requirements.
Singh wanted a third lawyer hired to assist Wieczorek and Deardorf but that person will work pro-bono, court records show.
Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Greg Howard declared Singh indigent for his first trial and is expected to do so again for his second trial.
That means Singh has no money to pay for private defense counsel so taxpayers foot the bill for that as well as trial experts, according to court documents.
On average, the cost to defend a defendant in a death penalty case can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and beyond.
After Singh’s mistrial, one of his attorneys wrote in a motion to withdraw as counsel that due to the state’s request for no bond, Singh has been in custody since June 2019 and is unable to maintain gainful employment.
“Given his indigent status, Mr. Singh cannot afford to pay for the services of Rittgers & Rittgers, LLC to represent him in a second trial,” the motion states.
Singh is charged with four aggravated murder counts in the April 2019 shooting deaths of his wife, Shalinderjit Kaur; her parents, Parmjit Kaur and Hakiakat Singh Pannag and his wife’s aunt, Amarjit Kaur.
Prosecutors say it happened at the Lakefront at West Chester apartment complex off Smith Road near Ohio 747.
His first trial ended after three weeks with a deadlocked jury, mistrial and Butler County Mike Gmoser trying to get the judge kicked off the case.
Gmoser accused the judge of being biased against the state and requested he not preside over the retrial.
Howard steered the jury into a deadlock, denied the jury’s request to review a transcript and failed to remove two jurors for alleged misconduct, the prosecutor wrote in filings to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Gmoser also alleged Howard repeatedly held off-the-record conferences in his chambers about material issues, displayed an offensive sign in his office, made crude and sexual jokes to counsel, and failed to conduct the first trial with the decorum required for a capital case
The judge denied those claims. The state, he noted, never objected to holding unrecorded conferences in his chambers or complained about a lack of decorum in the courtroom.
The judge said he removed the sign from his office and never intended to offend anyone with his comments or stories—although the judge denied making “sexual jokes.”
He said he would refrain from any similar attempts at humor.
The chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court ultimately denied Gmoser’s request.
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