Indian American youth Amritraj Singh Athwal facing death penalty for murder of Indian student

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Indian American Amritraj Singh Athwal who is serving jail term is facing the death penalty after the Madera County district attorney slapped additional special charges against him for allegedly killing a 21-year-old Indian student in California on November 13.

According to a Times of India report, with the additional charges slapped by Madera County District Attorney David Linn, the accused may face penalties to life without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty.

“We do not take capital cases lightly, however, based upon the facts that have been reported to us from law enforcement, we believe that either life without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty, is the appropriate sentence in this case,” said a press release issued by Linn.

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“Although prior election propositions and action by the State Legislature and Governor Brown have stripped law enforcement of effective tools to properly punish the defendant, my staff and I are fully committed to pursuing the most serious penalties available under existing California law,” he added.

Dharampreet Singh Jassar, a student from Punjab, who was studying accounting and criminal justice at Fresno State University, was killed by four armed robbers on November 13 while he was on duty at a grocery store next to a gas station in Fresno city in California.

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Athwal was among the gang who entered the store to steal cash and cigarette. Jassar was found dead by a customer next day morning.

Athwal was arrested November 14, and arraigned on December 7. His cousin Savirant Singh Athwal was also arrested in connection with the incident on December 15, two days after the attack, and arraigned December 19.

They are charged with murder, second-degree robbery, and a special allegation of murder while in the commission of a robbery. They are being held in Madera County Jail without bail.

Jassar was, reportedly, the only son of the Punjabi parents.

Sukhi Chahal, chairman of the Punjab Foundation told The Times of India that drug was the root cause of such killings and such incidents bring shame to the Punjabi community.

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“We cannot deny that drug is the root cause of many of these killing among the Punjabis in North America which brings shame to the community. It is the responsibility of the community leaders to accept the hard reality and work together to find the solution of these problems,” Chahal was quoted as saying by The Times of India.