Mesa (Arizona), Oct. 10 (Reuters): A Phoenix man was sentenced to death yesterday for murdering an Indian immigrant outside his gasoline station in an alleged hate crime just days after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Frank Roque, 44, faces death by lethal injection for gunning down Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh who apparently was mistaken for an Arab. An appeal is mandatory.
Roque, who is taking a powerful anti-psychotic drug, showed no emotion and stared straight ahead as the decision was announced in Maricopa County Superior Court.
Prosecutors argued Sodhi’s murder on September 15, 2001, was fuelled by racism and hate and carried out by a man with a long-time drinking problem. Defence attorneys said Roque was mentally ill and pushed over the edge by the attacks.
The jury deliberated for six hours before sentencing Roque to death in the case that attracted international attention in the wake of the terror attacks.
It prompted India to ask the US to take steps to prevent assaults on the Sikhs living there.
Sodhi, 49, who came to the US in 1988 from a village in Punjab, was one of the several Sikhs attacked in America after apparently being mistaken as possible supporters of Osama bin Laden, believed to be behind the September 11 attacks.
Roque still faces sentencing on other charges stemming from shooting two people of Afghani and Lebanese descent on the same day.
Lakhwinder Singh Sodhi said he was relieved that more than two years of waiting was over and that his brother’s killer will not go unpunished. “The jury brought justice back to our family,” he said.
“They brought the truth in front of the whole world and showed that we are all Americans.”