Plea flip-flop in West Kelowna murder trial stuns courtroom
Surrey Realtor Tejwant Danjou wants to repeal surprise guilty plea to 2nd degree murder of Rama Gauravarapu
For the second day in a row, Tejwant Danjou dropped a bombshell during his second-degree murder trial in B.C. Supreme Court in Kelowna that would drastically alter the course of the proceedings.
Danjou, 70, is accused of second-degree murder in the death of his common-law partner, Rama Gauravarapu, in a West Kelowna hotel room in July 2018.
On Wednesday, Danjou's lawyer, Donna Turko, instructed Justice Alison Beames her client wanted to withdraw his guilty plea.
Surprise guilty plea
The move came just 24 hours after Danjou surprised the court with a sudden guilty plea at the onset of his five week trial — an admission of guilt that took both defence and Crown lawyers by surprise.
Danjou, a real estate agent from Surrey, stood in the prisoners box on Tuesday and was adamant about his decision to enter the guilty plea.
"I've decided," he said. "I've made up my mind that I am guilty."
Beames repeatedly informed Danjou of the implications of entering a guilty plea to a second-degree murder charge, including accepting the Crown's position of the factual circumstances of the crime and understanding that he would be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 10 years.
"I need to be sure that you know what you are doing," Beames said.
After a break in the court proceedings where Danjou spoke to his defence counsel, he remained determined to plead guilty to the charge.
Application to withdraw plea
On Wednesday, however, Turko told the court her client had changed his mind and announced she would be making an application to revoke his guilty plea.
"When I went in with a set of admissions to sign ... he refused to sign the admissions — particular with the part that says he intended to kill the victim," Turko told the court.
Beames instructed Turko to prepare the application for a court hearing on Friday after which Beames will either accept the application and return the matter to trial or reject it and proceed with sentencing.
In July 2018, police were called to the Best Western Hotel in West Kelowna where they found Gauravarapu's body in a hotel room.
Danjou was arrested a short distance away and charged with second-degree murder.
Poornima Gauravarapu, the victim's daughter, told CBC News her mother was in a common-law relationship with Danjou, and the couple had lived together for a few years prior to her death.
She said there were signs of trouble in the relationship, and she believed her mother was planning on ending it.
"She was hiding it for a long time. She didn't tell anyone until one day that she came running to our house," Gauravarapu said.
Danjou has been in custody since his arrest in 2018.