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Death sentence for convicted murderer Kho Jabing will hold

SINGAPORE — The apex court has thrown out an eleventh-hour appeal filed on behalf of convicted murderer Kho Jabing and ruled that his death sentence will hold.

Kho Jabing's lawyers Peter Low, Mrs Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss and Mr Alfred Dodwell. Photo: Robin Choo/TODAY

Kho Jabing's lawyers Peter Low, Mrs Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss and Mr Alfred Dodwell. Photo: Robin Choo/TODAY

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SINGAPORE — The apex court has thrown out an eleventh-hour appeal filed on behalf of convicted murderer Kho Jabing and ruled that his death sentence will hold.

Kho, who was supposed to be executed before daybreak on Friday (May 20), was granted a stay of execution on Thursday night, following a dramatic sequence of events.

After a failed appeal by lawyer Gino Hardial Singh earlier in the day, lawyer Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss requested a stay of execution on the basis that she had just filed a civil application for Kho. This was dismissed and she immediately filed an appeal, which was heard on Friday.

Before the Court of Appeal on Friday morning, Mrs Chong-Aruldoss, together with fellow lawyer Alfred Dodwell whom she had roped in, sought an adjournment claiming they were ill-prepared for the appeal.

Rejecting this, Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin said: “Any attempt to stop the legal process must be on sufficient legal grounds.”

Mr Dodwell later argued that the test used by the court to determine the imposition of a death sentence was too vague, and the re-sentencing regime had been unconstitutional, subjecting Kho to unequal treatment.

State Counsel Francis Ng countered that the civil application and appeal was an abuse of process, meant to “buy more time”.

Justice Chao, delivering the judgment on behalf of the five judges, said that the arguments raised had been discussed in earlier hearings, and this was merely an attempt to re-argue matters.

“This will throw the whole system of justice into disrepute,” said Justice Chao. “This case has been about many things, but today it is about the abuse of the process of the court.”

Thursday’s eleventh-hour stay of execution is the second for the 31-year-old Sarawakian who had bludgeoned a Chinese construction worker to death in 2008. In November last year, he secured a stay of execution less than 48 hours before he was due to hang by mounting an appeal, which failed.

Kho was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty after he killed Chinese construction worker Cao Ruyin during a robbery near Geylang Drive by bashing the victim on the head with a tree branch that caused 14 skull fractures.

His roller-coaster court bid began in 2011 with a failed challenge against the murder conviction, only to be spared the hangman’s noose two years later when amendments to the mandatory death penalty regime kicked in that gave judges the discretion to sentence certain types of murderers to life imprisonment instead.

But his reprieve was scrubbed, on appeal by prosecutors. Last year, he failed to commute the sentence with an argument that there was new and compelling evidence to prove a miscarriage of justice.

In Friday’s first hearing, he took issue with the fact that Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang had been involved in two stages of his case, which his lawyer Gino Hardial Singh claimed was “a breach of natural justice”.

Then, Justice Chao had said that this was a rehash of a point he had raised previously.

He said: “We said that there comes a point, after the appeals have been heard and the applications for reviews have been decided, when the legal process must recede into the background and give way to the search for repose. We think the time has come.”

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