AUSTIN (KXAN) — Shriya Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison a day after being convicted of arson in her husband’s death.
Jurors began deliberating the sentence shortly after 4 p.m. Monday. After five hours, the group was sent home for the night. Deliberations resumed Tuesday at 9 a.m., and the sentence was handed down shortly before 2 p.m.
Patel was found not guilty of capital murder on Moday, but still faced jail time after receiving the arson conviction in the bathtub burning death of her husband.
She will be eligible for parole after three years.
In April 2012, Patel ignited a fire that burned her husband, Bimal Patel, on 70 percent of his body as he lay in a bathtub in their North Austin apartment. He would die nearly five months later due to the injuries.
The defense team for Patel tried to convince the jury Bimal was getting Shriya’s assistance to commit suicide by fire. Still, the jury verdict allowed them to send Patel to prison for a range of five- to 99 years, or sentence her to probation.
“We had to chisel away until we got to the verdict we came to, but that was part of the process,” said Stephen Smith, one of the jurors. “I don’t know if I am happy or sad with the verdict, but I can say due process was followed.”
Patel will now serve her sentence in Texas and be deported back to India once her term is completed. If she had been given probation, Patel would have been immediately deported.
Had she been convicted of capital murder, it would have carried an automatic sentence of life in prison with no parole.
During the punishment phase, friends of Bimal Patel talked about the man they lost.
“He had a laugh that there is not much I wouldn’t give to hear now,” said Rob Newman, a former roommate of Bimal’s at Texas Tech.
“It is haunting at this point, but infectious,” said Newman of Bimal’s laugh.
Newman and another roommate of Bimal described him as very positive and never cynical. Even when they visited him in the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center, he was talking about his future and possibly getting out of the hospital in a matter of weeks.
Both roommates testified Bimal was excited about marrying Shriya and they wanted to live an American lifestyle, but the incident happened just five days after Shriya arrived in the United States.
Shriya’s brother testified via Skype from Dubai and said his sister has never had a history of violence.
In-Depth: About the dismissed juror
Court got off to a bizarre start on Monday morning when the jury foreperson told the judge that one juror had been acting “drastically inappropriate” during Friday’s deliberations — which lasted eight hours without a verdict.
The same juror was a no-show on Monday.
An alternate juror was inserted into jury room, and a verdict was reached about an hour later.
The state presented the judge with an Austin Police Department incident report showing they responded to a call for an “emotionally disturbed person” Sunday night on Sixth Street and that the no-show juror was the person invo