A pregnant Punjabi woman suffered "calculated torture and abuse" from her mother-in-law for refusing to abort her unborn female child, her defense attorney claimed Wednesday.
Baljinder Kaur, 38, was arrested in October and charged with first-degree murder in the death of her mother-in-law Baljit Kaur, 68, at a home on Anthony Way in south Yuba City.
Baljinder Kaur was "forced to defend herself and her unborn child from imminent death at the hands of her mother-in-law," defense attorney Mani Sidhu said in a statement.
Cameron King, Sutter County deputy district attorney, said prosecutors do not believe Baljinder Kaur was defending herself when her mother-in-law was killed.
"I can't comment on any potential evidence in the case," King said. "But I will say that she's charged with a premeditated murder, and that's at odds with any claims of self-defense." Authorities have not commented on a motive for the killing.
Baljinder Kaur appeared briefly Wednesday in Sutter Superior Court, but her preliminary hearing was continued to June 13 to allow the defense more time to obtain unspecified laboratory results from the state Department of Justice.
Family members discovered Baljit Kaur's body Oct. 24, lying in a pool of blood in her living room, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in Sutter Superior Court.
Relatives and neighbors said the 68-year-old woman appeared to have been strangled, the affidavit said.
One witness, Parmjit Kaur Johal, a neighbor, said the victim's scarf was "wrapped tightly around (Kaur's) neck," the affidavit said.
"Johal attempted to loosen the scarf from the decedent's neck, however was unable to do so," the affidavit said.
An autopsy concluded, however, that Baljit Kaur died from a blow to her head.
Deputies noted numerous drops of blood in the kitchen, and said items were out of place and numerous drawers were opened in several rooms, the affidavit said.
Sidhu said his client was "threatened and intimidated" to seek an abortion because the child was a girl.
"Her mother-in-law, Baljit, comes from a culture in Punjab where males are preferred and more highly valued than women," Sidhu said. "In this culture, sex-selective abortions and murder of female infants are common and a widely known fact."
Baljinder Kaur, who was about six months pregnant at the time of her arrest, gave birth to a girl in January, but remains in custody without bail at the Sutter County jail.
"While suffering daily atrocities at the hands of her mother-in-law and family, (Baljinder) Kaur had no choice but to stay and protect herself and her unborn child as best she could," Sidhu said.
The search warrant affidavit indicates that Baljinder Kaur confessed to deputies during a recorded interview.
Deputies seized numerous items from the home including receipts, laptop computers, cellphones, thumb drives, clothing and fingerprints, the affidavit said.
A gold necklace found a short time after the killing in Lloyd Park is listed in the affidavit among the items of evidence seized. The affidavit does not explain the jewelry's significance.
If convicted, Baljinder Kaur faces 25 years to life in prison.