Gurpreet Singh retrial to begin this month; defense confident in three-judge panel decision

Defense attorney: ‘We believe we can win the case’

The capital murder retrial of Gurpreet Singh, who is accused of the 2019 West Chester Twp. killing of his wife and three family members, is scheduled to begin April 29 in the large “super” Butler County Common Pleas courtroom.

Singh’s defense team, his third, is confident of the decision to waive a jury and in their ability to win the case.

Attorney Mark Wieczorek told the Journal-News “We are confident we are making the right choice based on our theory of litigation and our interpretation of the evidence.”

In October 2022, the jury in Singh’s first death penalty trial deadlocked after nearly two weeks of testimony and 14 hours of deliberation. Judge Greg Howard declared a mistrial when the jury indicated it was hung and did not believe any further deliberations would serve a useful purpose.

Wieczorek and attorney Alexandria Deardorff, were retained by Singh, after his first defense team withdrew following the first trial and he briefly had been appointed a defense team by the court.

“We are not planning on losing,” Wieczorek said. “We believe we can win the case.”

In November, the 41-year-old former truck driver waived his right to a jury trial But the judge wants to make sure Singh doesn’t have a last-minute change of heart, thus the need for a hearing April 9 hearing for jury excuses. It is the last pre-trial hearing scheduled before trial.

A death penalty case before a three-judge panel is a rarity. The last one in Butler County was 13 years ago when Greg Osie of West Chester Twp. was convicted by a panel that consisted of Judges Noah Powers, Charles Pater and Patricia Oney. Osie was convicted of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and tampering with evidence for stabbing David Williams to death Feb. 14, 2009.

Howard, then a defense attorney, was one of two attorneys who represented Osie.

Just as in a jury trial, the verdict by a three-judge panel in the guilt phase must be unanimous. In the mitigation phase, the verdict among the judges must be unanimous for death, if it is not, the ruling is life without the possibility of parole, 25 years to life or 30 years to life, according to prosecutors.

A three-judge panel was selected by random draw in December 2019. The presiding judge Howard is a member, followed by Judge Dan Haughey and Judge Keith Spaeth.

Haughey — who was not yet a judge in 2019 — said he will recuse himself because he had contact with Singh in juvenile court concerning custody of his children. That means the third judge will be Greg Stephens.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Singh remains housed in the Butler County Jail without bond.

Singh is charged with four counts of aggravated murder for allegedly shooting and killing his wife Shalinderjit Kaur, 39; his in-laws, Hakikat Singh Pannag, 59, and Parmjit Kaur, 62; and his aunt-in-law, Amarjit Kaur, 58, at a West Chester Twp. apartment on April 28, 2019.

During the first trial, prosecutors said Singh murdered his family by shooting them all in the head after a longtime affair he was having and a strained relationship with his in-laws over money from land owned in India.

It appears that will be the same evidence presented as a motive in the second trial, based on motions filed by prosecutors.

The defense team at the first trial said Singh is innocent and the killings were part of a professional hit due to Pannag’s financial woes and a land contract deal in India with the “land mafia.” They say three masked men broke into the apartment with baseball bats, and Singh ran for his life. When he returned, everyone was dead.

Wieczorek said the second trial will have a “fresh perspective” from the defense.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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