Indian court to give verdict in 1999 high-society killing of a former model

The Delhi High Court was expected to give its verdict Monday on the killing of former model Jessica Lall, who was shot to death while tending bar at an upscale establishment in 1999, news reports said.

The trial has made headlines after a lower court acquitted the accused killer the son of a wealthy politician earlier this year, sparking a controversy over the country's legal system.

The acquittal drew sharp criticism from New Delhi's citizens, who held street protests for several days, forcing authorities to reopen the investigation.

The accused, Manu Sharma, then 24, is the son of a powerful and wealthy politician with business interests in sugar mills. At least eight others face charges of helping Sharma escape the crime scene, providing shelter or destroying evidence.

The punishment for murder in India is usually life in prison, reports AP.

The Times of India newspaper quoted Sabrina Lall, the victim's sister, as saying she hoped for the best but was also prepared to face the worst.

Lall was allegedly shot by a patron after she refused to serve him a drink because it was closing time for the bar. Dozens of people witnessed the killing, but most later recanted their testimony as the case moved through courts for six years.

India's courts are so slow that cases can take decades to resolve, bribery is often openly demanded and the powerful seldom face prosecution.

In recent months, however, the courts have convicted several powerful individuals accused of crimes, including a Cabinet minister who was sentenced to life imprisonment earlier this month.

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