Murder trial continues, Crown cross-examines psychiatrist

Debating Danjou's 'delusion'

The trial for the man accused of murdering his partner in a West Kelowna hotel room in July 2018 continued on Wednesday afternoon as the Crown attempted to disprove the accused suffered from a delusional disorder.

At the beginning of Tejwant Danjou's trial in February, Danjou admitted and pleaded guilty to killing his partner, Rama Guaravarapu. He then withdrew his plea, after claiming he never intended to kill her – an essential element of murder.

Danjou’s second-degree murder trial resumed Tuesday after a two and a half month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, opening with defence counsel Donna Turko asserting Danjou was unable to form the intent to murder on July 22, 2018 due to his jealous delusions.

Forensic psychiatrist Todd Tomita testified he came to the same conclusion after spending six hours interviewing Danjou at the Okanagan Correctional Centre, stating Danjou suffered from a delusional disorder of the jealous type. 

Crown prosecutor Simone McCallum did her best to cast doubt on that theory Wednesday afternoon, questioning the defence's argument Danjou was not in a state of mental clarity when the incident occurred.

Delusion is, by legal definition, “a false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly held despite what almost everyone else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof to the contrary."

The court heard Wednesday afternoon Danjou had received information on two separate occasions from Gauravarapu's ex-husband alleging she had the tendency to be unfaithful. 

Given Danjou had received information on more than one occasion regarding the possibility of spousal infidelity, McCallum said this suggested he was not experiencing a delusion. 

"If the foundation for a person’s jealousy, their jealous belief, is information received from a third party that the spouse has a tendency to be unfaithful, or is being unfaithful, doesn’t that tend to limit the inference that the belief is due to a delusion?” she asked Tomita, the psychiatrist.

Tomita admitted the information which had been provided to Danjou did make the assertion of delusion more difficult, but not unreasonable from a psychiatric perspective.

“Just because there may be underlying objective factual reason for the person to be suspicious, jealous, delusional, doesn’t mean the individual can’t be delusional, but if you’re asking does it make it a bit more difficult? Yes. On the other hand, it also provides some information about the potential genesis of the delusion … the way in which Mr Danjou described that information he obtained from the ex-husband and the sudden crystallization made it, from a psychiatric point of view, look pathological beyond normal jealousy.”

McCallum went on to assert the “voice” Danjou heard on the night of the incident of Gauravarapu “taunting him” about having sex with his best friend was not indicative of delusion, as it closely resembled words Gauravarapu had spoken to him in a previous argument, played out for the court to hear.  

She also inferred Danjou’s ability to unbolt the security latch on the door when responding to a hotel worker’s offer for room service, accept an offer from the same worker for a phone charger, and to clearly decline help from a hotel worker while Gauravarapu lay injured behind him, were all examples of his ability to comprehend events as they were actually happening. 

Although Tomita agreed that Danjou was registering events accurately as they were unfolding, he was hesitant to insinuate those small incidences were a direct reflection of the bigger picture. 

“The only reason I hesitated to endorse is these are pretty simple routine tasks to register, and certainly it would suggest that he’s mentally present enough to respond to routine things. Someone knocking on the door at a hotel saying room service, "no thanks", someone handing him something - these are pretty basic routine things, but to generalize from that, that's just what I want to be careful about in my response.

"In a vacuum, individual snippets or observations - you can’t take much from them. It’s the pattern, and the context. It’s important … you’re asking me individual parts that are forming part of a pattern, and so individually my response may be a little bit different than if you were asking me - how do these pieces fit together?” 

The trial continues Thursday.

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