BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Both sides rested Friday in the trial of an alleged “honor killing” after the defense called a Punjabi cultural expert and the granddaughter of accused murderer Jagjit Singh to the stand.
Dr. Laljit Sidhu, a psychologist, attempted to explain the mindset of people, like Singh, who have spent their lives steeped in traditional Punjabi culture. He expounded on the tenets of the Sikh faith and how gravely Singh’s daughter-in-law affronted him by carrying on an affair and personally insulting him and his beliefs when she threatened to tear off his beard.
Singh, 67, shot Sumandeep Kaur Kooner, 37, the morning of Aug. 26, 2019. He told police he killed her because of her “dishonoring of him.”
Among her insults, Singh said, was to threaten to call police and fabricate a story that he sexually assaulted her.
Prosecutor Kara Thompson is seeking a first-degree murder conviction. She has told the jury Singh shot an unarmed woman three times because he disagreed with her lifestyle.
Defense attorney David A. Torres is asking jurors to find his client guilty of voluntary manslaughter. He argued during opening statements the shooting occurred in the heat of the moment with no premeditation.
Closing arguments are scheduled Monday.
On Friday, Sidhu testified to the importance of hair among practicing Sikhs. Cutting or touching the beard of a Sikh would be considered an act of sacrilege.
“Is killing generally accepted in the Punjabi community of Bakersfield?” Thompson asked Sidhu during cross-examination.
“No,” he said.
“Is killing an unarmed person generally accepted in the Punjabi community in Bakersfield?” she asked.
“No,” Sidhu responded.
He also said killing is inconsistent with the teachings contained in the holy books of Sikhism.
Singh, his wife, Kooner, her husband and their daughter lived in a house on Monache Meadows Drive in south Bakersfield.
The daughter, Diljot Kaur Kooner, was 10 when the killing occurred.
During emotional testimony, she said her mother had changed in the months before her death. When the family traveled to India that year, her parents fought often and stayed in separate houses.
She testified her mother yelled at her father “a lot, like probably every single day.”
Diljot said she became aware of her mother’s affair through an overheard phone call. Her mother would lock herself in a room and spend hours on the phone, she said.
Their relationship was strained, she said.
Speaking through tears, she testified Kooner “would talk bad about me, she would hit me.”
Her mother didn’t want her to practice the Sikh faith, she said.