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Rich Hill man seeks to clear name in 1996 drive-by killing

Supporters of Tejpal Singh stand silently in front of the Queens Supreme Court building proclaiming the 37-year-old convicted murderer's innocence. Photo by Ellis Kaplan
TimesLedger Newspapers

The Queens DA agreed last Thursday to look into the 2004 conviction of a Richmond Hill man who is serving 11 years of a life sentence for a 1996 drive-by shooting.

Brooklyn-based criminal lawyer Stephen Murphy said mishandling of the original case along with new evidence convinced him that Tejpal Singh, the 37-year-old man convicted of killing one person and injuring another, is innocent.

“When you’re playing cards, you don’t play your whole hand,” Murphy said. “But I have a ton of information and a ton of tape recordings.”

Murphy did divulge several new developments in the case that could bode well for his client.

One of the two witnesses, who testified he saw Singh shoot him, has since recanted his story, Murphy said.

Another eyewitness has said he would testify on Singh’s behalf for money, according to Murphy.

“They were the only real two witnesses of any substance,” Murphy said.

In addition, Murphy claims the arresting officer was under investigation by the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau, which was not brought up in the trial and could have been a boon to his client’s former lawyer.

“I’m sure he would have been much more comfortable cross-examining [the officer], knowing that she was the focus of a corruption investigation,” Murphy said.

The Queens DA issued a statement indicating that many of the items in the defense’s motion were issues that had already been dealt with in Singh’s trial and appeal and that the DA stands by the conviction.

“His current papers contain scurrilous attacks against people with impeccable reputations,” the statement from DA spokesman Kevin Ryan said. “Nevertheless, we will thoroughly review all aspects of this case to determine whether there is any basis for further action.”

The drive-by shooting took place in 1996 amid a feud between two opposing factions of a Sikh temple in Richmond Hill, according to Murphy.

Singh is the son of one side’s leader; the dead victim and two witnesses were from the opposing side, according to Murphy.

The battle between the two sides grew heated when Singh’s faction accused the other of mishandling money from the temple, said Murphy.

After the shooting, Singh fled to Canada, where he was eventually arrested and extricated to New York City, said Murphy. He was sentenced to life in prison after his conviction in 2004, said Murphy.

Murphy presented his case to Judge Michael Aloise, who originally heard the trial Sept. 21 in the Queens Supreme Court Building, at 125-01 Queens Blvd. Outside the courthouse, hundreds of Singh’s supporters held up signs proclaiming the Richmond Hill man’s innocence.

The DA will also present its findings, which are due by Oct. 27, before the judge decides if a new trial is needed.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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