Roommate's suicide trial for Indian student



New York: The trial of an Indian-origin Rutgers University student accused of spying on his roommate's sexual encounter with another man began on Friday with attorneys preparing to give their opening statements.

Dharun Ravi is charged in a 15-count indictment with bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and hindering apprehension for using a web cam to spy on his roommate Tyler Clementi.

Clementi committed suicide in September 2010 by jumping off the George Washington bridge near here a few days after Ravi wrote about the sexual encounter on microblogging site Twitter.

Ravi, 19 has pleaded not guilty and had also rejected a plea deal under which he would have avoided jail term but would have had to perform 600 hours of community service and receive counselling.

Ravi, who has not been charged with Clementi's death, has insisted that he meant no harm when he spied on his roommate and cannot be blamed for his death. The Indian student faces up to 10 years in state prison if convicted.

The case has generated nationwide interest with rights groups expressing concerns over bullying of young men and women for being homosexuals. The trial, taking place in New Jersey near here, is expected to last 3-4 weeks.

The testimony of the other man who was with Clementi in his room is being assumed as key in the case. So far, his identity has not been revealed and he has been identified only as by the initials 'M B.'

Jury selection in the case was completed earlier this week. Of 185 people who had responded to the court's questionnaires, Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman and the attorneys finalised 16 jurors to decide Ravi's fate.

Berman swore in the jury? seven men and eight women ? before attorneys began their opening arguments. Middlesex County First Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure McClure told the judge she plans to bring 23 witnesses to the stand during the trial. McClure has countered defence by Ravi's lawyer Steven Altman that his client is not guilty by saying that Ravi deliberately planned to invade Tyler's privacy and to "deprive him of his dignity."

PTI