Pooja Dorward says her brother, Kapali Giridhar Swamy, was outgoing, personable and friendly. An artistic person who was fond of movies, his dream was to be a director, Dorward told SAJAforum in a phone interview.
However, Swamy’s dreams have died with him. The 27-year-old Alabama native was killed in Hanceville in Cullman County, Alabama, on Nov. 18, 2007. The reason for his death— just one or two punches from 23-year-old Christopher Brett Pennington.
From The Cullman Times citing the report from Cullman County Sheriff’s Department:
Lt. Phillip Lambert said Swamy and the female companion were arguing on the way back to Pennington’s home. Lambert said when they arrived at the residence the arguing escalated and she exited the vehicle and stated she wasn’t going with Swamy.
According to statements made by both the companion and Pennington, Swamy exited the vehicle and began yelling at the woman. Lambert said Swamy pushed her, leading to Pennington stepping between the couple.
According to the sheriff’s incident report, both the woman and Pennington said Swamy pushed him. Pennington returned to his feet and hit Swamy, causing him to collapse.
According to the autopsy reports by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, Swamy suffered one or two blows to the head.
The case was tried in a closed courtroom with an 18-member jury. But the jury dismissed charges against Pennington, who had been charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide for Swamy’s death.
Swamy’s family and friends are angry about the verdict. They hold Pennington responsible for his death.
“One punch can kill, and my brother is an example,” Dorward said. “This guy (Pennington) walked without a single charge, and he killed somebody.”
Swamy isn’t the only person killed by punches. Dorward has compiled a list of people who died from punches in the U.S and abroad.
From an incident in Virginia on January as reported by Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Robinson D. Hogan pleaded guilty yesterday to involuntary manslaughter for throwing a single punch to the face of Luke Cockey, who fell and hit the back of his head on West Main Street during a confrontation outside a bar in Richmond’s Fan District on Jan. 24.
In July, Australia passed a law to deal with one-punch deaths.
From ABC News, Australia:
The new law introduces a charge of Unlawful Assault Causing Death, designed to ensure people who kill someone with one punch but are found not guilty of manslaughter, will still go to jail.
The Attorney General Jim McGinty says the one-punch legal loophole has now been closed.
"The days when somebody would throw a punch and kill somebody and then walk free in court because the death was not foreseeable, are over," he said.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that a $500,000 (Australian sollars) was announced in August for an advertising blitz promoting tougher one-punch laws.
Dorward said a similar law should be passed in the U.S. She said if Swamy had survived, he could have filed a charge against Pennington. But now that he is dead, Dorward said there aren’t any ways to take the case forward since the legal system in the U.S. doesn’t believe that a punch can kill a person; there isn’t any law for it.
In order to raise awareness about this issue and to commemorate the first death anniversary of Swamy, his family and friends are organizing a rally next week at the 5 Points South Fountain in Birmingham.
As she wrote at KapaliSwamyCampaign.com:
Dorward said there is also a Facebook group called “Justice for Kapali Swamy” to make people aware about the issue that a punch can kill a person.
The grief-struck sister said that she wants to call attention of the legal system so they come up with a law against one-punch deaths. Also, she said she wants to give her parents, who have been battling with their son’s death, some peace.
She has also hinted that race may have played in a role in the way the legal system dealt with the case:
ABOUT THE EVENT
Where: 5 Points South Fountain in Birmingham, Alabama
Intersection of 20th St. S. and 11th Ave S.
When: Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008
3 to 5 p.m.
Journalists and others who wish to contact Pooja Swamy Dorward may do so at poojadorward[at]gmail.com. Tell her SAJA sent you.
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See SAJAforum's U.S. Desi Crime Map - our work in progress, unfortunately.