A Punjabi-origin woman, who admitted to killing her 68-year-old mother-in-law in 2012, has been released from Sutter County jail in California after a jury acquitted her of first-degree murder.
The not-guilty verdict came after Baljinder Kaur's defence lawyer Mani Sidhu argued that she killed her mother-in-law Baljit Kaur in their Yuba City, California, home on October 24, 2012, to save her unborn girl child from female foeticide.
Sidhu, the local Appeal-Democrat reported, argued that Baljinder, 39, was a battered woman whose mother-in-law abused her and sought to force the end of her pregnancy because the baby was a female.
Baljinder testified that her mother-in-law took her to get an abortion, which she avoided. Sidhu said Baljinder fought the woman to defend her unborn daughter. Otherwise, the child could have been another victim of the gender-based foeticide that has taken the lives of 100 million Indian girls, he said. He said since her release, Baljinder was maintaining privacy for her own safety. "She is safe and with her family."
Baljinder was released from jail on April 25. She had been in custody since October 26, 2012, and gave birth to her second daughter as an inmate, according to Appeal-Democrat. "We believe she acted in self-defence of her child," juror Michelle Struhs, 47, of Yuba City was quoted as saying.
"We didn't feel that our conclusion was perfect," Struhs said. "We felt she was 'not guilty' rather than 'innocent'. We could not find her guilty based on the law."
The murder trial began on April 15 and lasted just eight days. The jury deliberated for a day-and-a-half. "I think there wasn't a lot of dispute of the facts," said prosecutor Cameron King. "Why she did it was the question."
He said jurors just simply believed Baljinder was an abused woman. None of Baljinder's family members attended hearings leading up to the trial, and the courtroom audience was sparse over the past two weeks, Appeal-Democrat said.
When the verdict was announced, Baljinder who has worn jeans, a sweater and a thick black braid down her back dropped her face into her hands and sobbed, the news site said.