Apex court mulls over plea to quash killer's execution

The fate of convicted murderer Jabing Kho, who made an eleventh-hour bid more than two weeks ago to stave off execution, still hangs in the balance as a five- judge Court of Appeal mulls over his lawyer's arguments to quash his death sentence.

Kho, a 31-year-old from Sarawak, was due to go to the gallows on Nov 6 for the brutal murder of a construction worker seven years ago, after his appeal for clemency was rejected by the President last month.

Less than 24 hours before he was to be hanged, lawyer Chandra Mohan K. Nair got a temporary stay of execution to prepare his case.

Yesterday, Mr Mohan argued for the five-judge court, which gave a split 3-2 verdict in January in favour of sending Kho to the gallows, to set aside its own decision. He said the court should reopen its landmark decision as errors had been made.

In 2008, Kho bludgeoned Chinese national Cao Ruyin, 40, with a tree branch while robbing him. Cao died of head injuries six days later.

Kho was given the death penalty - then mandatory for murder - in 2010. His appeal failed but he was re-sentenced to life imprisonment in 2013, after the law was changed to allow judges to opt for a life term for murder with no intention to kill.

The prosecution appealed.

As Kho's case was the first of its kind to reach the apex court since the law was changed, it laid down the legal principle for judges to apply in deciding when the death penalty was warranted.

The principle - whether the actions of the offender would outrage the feelings of the community - was based on a local 1970s case of kidnapping for ransom.

Yesterday, Mr Mohan argued that the court had applied the wrong sentencing principles. He argued that every murder outraged the feelings of the community and the court was restricting its own discretion.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Francis Ng argued that the assertion was simply a disappointed litigant's attempt to convince the court to revisit a point that has been thoroughly considered.

Mr Mohan also argued that in the re-sentencing stage, Kho was denied the chance to testify as to the number of blows and the force used when he attacked Mr Cao.

But DPP Ng said Kho had already testified during his original trial that he hit the victim twice and did not know the force he used.

Kho's mother and sister, who were in court, spoke to him briefly after the hearing. They then left with tears in their eyes and declined to be interviewed.

The court will give its decision at a later date. Kho's stay of execution was extended.


This article was first published on November 24, 2015.
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