SINGAPORE - Convicted killer Kho Jabing has failed in his final bid to be spared the gallows, after his appeal for clemency was turned down by President Tony Tan Keng Yam on the Cabinet's advice.
Kho, 31, was informed of the rejection last week, said his lawyer Anand Nalachandran, who visited him in prison on Wednesday with co-counsel Josephus Tan and Keith Lim.
Kho has gone through an emotional roller coaster, as he was initially sentenced to death in 2010, then re-sentenced to life and then ordered to face death on appeal to the apex court.
The rag-and-bone man from Sarawak had beaten a Chinese construction worker to death with a tree branch in 2008.
Mr Cao Ruyin, 40, was robbed of his mobile phone and died from brain injuries six days later.
In 2010, Kho and his accomplice Galing Kujat, 32, were convicted of murder and sentenced to the then mandatory death penalty. Kho's appeal against conviction was rejected the following year, while Kujat's was allowed.
Instead of murder, Kujat - also from Malaysia - was convicted of robbery with hurt and later sentenced to 18-1/2 years' jail and 19 strokes of the cane.
But after revised laws came into effect in 2013, making the death penalty mandatory only for the most serious form of murder, Kho's lawyers applied for him to be re-sentenced.
In August 2013, the High Court gave Kho a life term instead, but the prosecution challenged this decision before a rare five-man Court of Appeal last year.
The court arrived at a split 3-2 decision in January with the majority finding that given the "sheer savagery and brutality" of the attack, they were "completely satisfied" that Kho "exhibited a blatant disregard for human life in the way he attacked the deceased".
In essence, the act "outraged the feelings of the community", which justified the death penalty.
The minority held that it was unsafe to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that he acted in a way which showed a blatant disregard for human life, despite the gravity of the blows.
Lawyers who submitted the clemency petition to President Tan in April said the death penalty was inappropriate, given that the apex court was split in its decision.
"Essentially, we proposed that the death penalty should require a unanimous decision. We highlighted that certain jurisdictions require a unanimous decision for capital punishment - failing which, life imprisonment is imposed," said Mr Anand.
"Our legislation does not have a similar threshold but clemency could have the same effect."
The lawyers also highlighted that the death penalty was imposed on appeal in a two-tier system and there was no further tier of appeal.
Said Mr Anand: "We are in contact with the Malaysian High Commission and arrangements were made for his mother and sister to come to Singapore to see him.
"We have requested the Singapore Prison Service to notify us of the execution date when fixed. We met with Jabing on Wednesday and we'll help to fulfil his last wishes."
The Court of Appeal's landmark decision on Kho sparked keen discussion earlier this year on how brutal should a murder be to warrant the death penalty.
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