Court reserves judgement for Sarawakian death row inmate

Kho Jabing

A 31-year-old Sarawakian on death row in Singapore has gained a little more time after the Court of Appeal reserved its judgement in the hearing of a criminal motion filed by his lawyer.

Kho Jabing had initially been scheduled to hang on 6 November after being convicted of murder under section 300(c) of the Penal Code for his involvement in a 2007 robbery which resulted in the death of Chinese construction worker Cao Ruyin. He was given an eleventh-hour reprieve after his new lawyer Chandra Mohan K Nair filed a criminal motion. The case was heard on Monday afternoon.

He was first sentenced to death under the mandatory death penalty in 2010, but changes to the mandatory death penalty regime in Singapore implemented in 2013 led him back to the High Court for resentencing. Citing his young age at the time the crime was committed, as well as his lack of intent to kill and the lack of a clear sequence of events, Judge Tay Yong Kwang set aside his death sentence in favour of life imprisonment with 24 strokes of the cane.

The prosecution appealed the High Court’s decision and in January 2015 this year a five-judge Court of Appeal ruled in a 3-2 decision to send Kho back to the gallows. His appeal for clemency from the president was later rejected in mid-October.

Mr Chandra Mohan asked the five judges – the same five who had ruled on Kho’s case earlier this year – to consider the sentence “one more time” to see if the details of Kho’s case truly fit the a crime deserving of the ultimate punishment. He argued that based on other murder cases following the amendments of the mandatory death penalty legislation, life imprisonment with strokes of the cane for Kho would not be inappropriate.

Kho’s mother Lenduk anak Baling and sister Jumai Kho were both present in court. Following the hearing, they were able to speak briefly with Kho, and to touch his hand through the gap in the glass pane separating the dock from the rest of the courtroom. It was the first time they had been allowed to touch Kho in years, as visitation in prison always takes place behind a glass pane. Both women broke down in tears as they gripped Kho’s hand before he was escorted away by prison guards.

The Court of Appeal did not set a date for when it would deliver a judgement. The court vacation period is coming up at the end of November, and the court sessions will only resume in January.