The Indian community in New Jersey is in a state of shock over the “not guilty” verdict in the Divyendu Sinha murder case, reports Ela Dutt in News India Times. A computer scientist by profession, Sinha, 49, was beaten to death in Old Bridge, N.J., on June 25, 2010 in front of his wife and two sons. The defendants, Cash Johnson and Christian Tinli, both 20, faced 10 charges, some serious enough to send them to prison for several years. But on September 30 the jury found them guilty of only simple assault on Ravi Sinha, the son of Divyendu Sinha.
The jury pronounced “not guilty” on almost all of them and settled on “simple assault,” leaving Sinha’s wife Alka Sinha, beside herself with grief in the courtroom. To add insult to injury, the simple assault charge related to Divyendu Sinha’s son Ravi Sinha, carries a mere 0 to 6 months in prison. How many days the two charged will actually spend in prison will be determined at the time of sentencing on Oct. 18.
Five teens – Johnson, Tinli, Julian Daley, Christopher Conway and Steven Contreras – accosted and beat the elder Sinha and his son Ravi while the family was taking a walk in their neighborhood. The father sustained severe injuries and died three days later at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
Originally all the teens faced the same charges but Daley, Conway and Contreras pleaded guilty to lesser charges and testified against the other two during the trial in Superior Court in New Brunswick, N.J., which was presided by Judge Bradley Ferencz. The five co-defendants will be sentenced together.
Authorities decided to try the teens as adults after the Indian community in New Jersey rallied immediately after the unprovoked incident. However, according to Gaurang Vaishnav of the community organization Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the community’s interest in the case started waning with the passage of time. Vaishnav, who closely followed the case and tried to rally the community, told Desi Talk, News India Times’ sister publication, that barely 30 to 40 Indian-Americans showed up in the courtroom during the trial.
“This is a heartbreaking verdict and boggles one’s mind. How the jury could be so one sided in the face of irrefutable evidence is beyond common sense logic,” Vaishnav said. “I feel the jury was absolutely wrong and that this was undeniably a case of miscarriage of justice,” he added.
“I have lost everything,” Alka Sinha said on hearing the verdict pronounced three years, three months and five days from the night of the brutal beating that killed her husband. Vaishnav sounded cynical about not just the results but also about a community he has been trying to rally on the issue.
“You can see how the public can have an effect by looking at the Trayvon Martin case in Florida,” Vaishnav pointed out.
According to Vaishnav, the estimated 103,000 Indian-Americans living within a 20-mile radius of Edison, the municipality with among the largest percentage of Indian Americans in the country, could have had an impact on the case if they had rallied.
“Out of these, at least 10,000 are retired people who could have afforded to take the time to come (for the trial),” and put public pressure possibly for a different verdict. “Today people are upset about the verdict. They keep calling me and asking, “How did this happen?” But tomorrow they will forget,” said a disillusioned Vaishnav.
Ramesh Gurnani, an Edison-based attorney, agrees that there was a lack of public pressure which otherwise could have made a difference in the case.
“There seems to have been no interest in this (Divyendu Sinha) case. Nobody took it on as a cause-celebre,” Gurnani told Desi Talk.
New York lawyer Ravi Batra said the jury trial has ended but the family still has an option.
“Divyendu Sinha’s family, and their supporters, can request President Obama’s Justice Dept to open a federal criminal civil rights deprivation case, which if successfully brought can still send the convicted to jail.”