Indian American found guilty of murdering black daughter-in-law

June 27th, 2008 - 3:15 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, June 27 (IANS) An India-born businessman in the US has been found guilty of hiring killers to murder his son’s wife because she was African American. Chiman Rai, 68, was handed the verdict Thursday by a Fulton County jury in Atlanta, Georgia, a day after closing arguments in the trial. They held him guilty on seven charges, including felony, murder and burglary.

Prosecutors plan to seek death penalty for Rai. Their contention is that he had his son Rajeev ‘Ricky’ Rai’s wife Sparkle, 22, killed because he was racist and believed an inter-racial marriage would embarrass his family.

In April 2000, Sparkle was found murdered, strangled with a vacuum cord and stabbed more than a dozen times within weeks of her March 2000 wedding to Ricky. Their six-month-old daughter Analla was left unharmed in a nearby room in their Fulton County apartment in Georgia.

The case baffled investigators for years until two witnesses came forward two years ago and identified Cleveland Clark as the killer who was helped by his brother Carl Clark. Both were serving time in a Mississippi prison for armed robbery when they were charged for the contract killing.

Prosecutors said Rai, indicted in 2006 for the crime, teamed up with Willie Fred Evans and Herbert Green to serve as middlemen. The two co-defendants testified in court that they arranged the killing. Both have pleaded guilty to lesser charges and cooperated with prosecutors.

Prosecutors said $10,000 was passed to Clark brothers and that Cleveland, who also faces the death penalty in a separate trial, carried out the killing.

Defence attorneys contended Evans and Green lied to cover up their own role in the killing, which looked like a robbery gone bad.

The prosecution’s case was helped by Ricky testifying during the trial that he and the victim had moved cities to escape family pressure about the relationship. He, however, recanted his earlier statement given to the police soon after Sparkle’s murder that his parents were “kind of racist”.

Rai’s defence projected him as a hardworking businessman who wanted his son to marry an Indian woman, but was far from a racist. They produced many of Rai’s black customers and fellow inmates before the jury, and each described Rai as tolerant and compassionate.

His attorneys also reminded the jury that their client had taught math at the historically black Alcorn State University in Mississippi and later ran a supermarket in a predominantly black area in Jackson.

Rai brought his family to the US in 1970 from India. After teaching and running a supermarket, he bought a hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, where he hired Sparkle as a clerk. Daughter of a news reporter, she fell in love with Ricky and became pregnant before their wedding.

Ricky also said in the court that he married an Indian woman after Sparkle’s death. He has not seen his daughter Analla, on whom he once doted, since shortly after the murder. He gave her custody to Sparkle’s father and step-mother.

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