(Trinidad Guardian) After spending more than nine years in jail awaiting trial for killing her abusive and adulterous husband, stroke-stricken Jassodra Jagmohan, 63, was finally reunited with her family yesterday when she was set free.
Claiming her actions were spurred on by years of physical and mental abuse, Jagmohan, who was initially charged with murder, pleaded guilty on Wednesday in the San Fernando High Court to the lesser count of manslaughter.
A frail looking, grey-haired Jagmohan, whose right hand was in a sling, managed to muster a smile for photos, but seemed to be in a state of disbelief at the decision.
Unable to form her words properly, she whispered “very hap..py” when asked by reporters how she felt to be freed.
Being incarcerated for all those years “was not easy” said Jagmohan, who said she prayed for her freedom and to be reunited with her two daughters.
The abuse meted out to Jagmohan by her husband Jagindranan, 57, his flagrant infidelity, her age, health and period of incarceration were among the things considered by Justice Althea Alexis-Windsor as she decided Jagmohan’s sentence.
“This has been a trial of law and emotion,” said the judge.
Notwithstanding their measured faces, she said they were all human beings and it was “impossible for emotions to remain dormant.”
According to the facts agreed between the attorneys, the plan to kill her husband was hatched with her cousin at the Penal Market about a month and a half prior to the killing. However, he was never charged. Jagmohan paid her cousin $1,000 to kill her husband, also called Rex.
On the night of June 23, 2007, the cousin went to their home with a two-foot long plastic strap.
Jagmohan’s husband had taken medication which incapacitated him. Jagmohan watched as her husband was dragged into a car purportedly owned by her cousin and that was the last time she saw him alive.
The next day Jagmohan went to the Homicide office in San Fernando and reported her husband left home that morning to go jogging and didn’t return. Her husband was subsequently found strangled at Clarke Road, Penal.
Homicide detectives went to her home on January 3, 2008 to obtain information. Jagmohan, who was not a suspect then, voluntarily went to the Homicide office where she admitted to being part of a plan to “mash up” her husband. Jagmohan, however, told the officers she was sorry and had only agreed with her cousin to kill her husband because she was frustrated, angry, hurt and ashamed. She told police her husband physically and emotionally abused her since 1998 and was involved in at least two extramarital affairs up to the time of his death. Jagmohan was released by a magistrate following the preliminary inquiry, but was rearrested on a judge’s warrant some months later.
Asking the judge to discharge her, attorney Michael Rooplal, who together with Prakash Ramadhar represented her, said, “She has spent a lifetime on remand.”
He said her medical reports would show she suffered numerous strokes in jail and her health had rapidly deteriorated.
He added, “She is in the category of a battered woman. This would have played a major role in her participation in the killing of her husband.”
Described a model inmate, Rooplal said the mother of two and grandmother of four did not have a criminal past. He also provided testimonials from Jagmohan’s daughters, who live in the Canada and Saudi Arabia.
In passing sentence, the judge said had the matter gone to trial and the accused opted to use the Battered Woman Syndrome defence, if accepted by the jury, she would have been found guilty of manslaughter. The judge’s sentence starting point was 16 years, but after taking everything into consideration, it was reduced to nine years and four months. However, Jagmohan would have already served that time incarcerated. After discharging her, the judge said, “Good luck. You can go home, hope you enjoy the rest of your life.”
Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC, who was given a fiat to prosecute, said justice was not only done in this case, but was also seen to be done. Relatives of Jagmohan and her husband were present in court.