Former AG Oppal Stepped In To Oppose Panghali Deal

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Documents released publicly this week reveal the Crown and Mukhtiar Panghali’s lawyers had a deal worked out that he would plead guilty to manslaughter, primarily because there was little direct evidence – mainly circumstantial – surrounding the circumstances of his wife Manjit’s death.

SURREY – Former Attorney General Wallace Taru Oppal stepped in and personally opposed the plea deal of Mukhtiar Panghali, who convicted nearly two years ago of murdering his pregnant wife Manjit.

Panghali wanted to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter but Oppal nixed the deal, details of which were released by the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch Monday.

Panghali was charged in 2007 with the second-degree murder of his 30-year-old wife the year before. He was found guilty in 2011 and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years for strangling his wife and leaving her burned body on a South Delta shoreline. An appeal of his conviction was rejected last October, reported the Surrey Leader newspaper.

However, the documents released publicly this week reveal the Crown and Panghali’s lawyers had a deal worked out that he would plead guilty to manslaughter, primarily because there was little direct evidence – mainly circumstantial – surrounding the circumstances of Manjit’s death.

But Oppal disagreed with the plea bargain.

“Having reviewed all the available evidence, I disagree with the view of the Branch,” reads a Feb. 10, 2009 letter from Oppal. “It is my opinion that there remains a strong, solid case of substance to present to the Court, and that there continues to be a substantial likelihood it is in the public interest to proceed with the prosecution on the charge of second degree murder.”

Because of the differing views, a special prosecutor was appointed to take the case to trial – a step taken to “ensure there was no risk of real or perceived improper influence,” according to the Criminal Justice Branch.

Jasmine Bhambra, Manjit Panghali’s sister, told the Leader her family was privy to the discussions about a plea deal. At the time, she recalls being taken aback that her sister’s killer might face a lesser charge and punishment, but understood the difficult position Crown prosecutors were in.

“If we had a different outcome, I’d probably be singing a different song,” said Bhambra on Tuesday. “We’re just happy with the result that we have. I think about her every day and that’s enough.”