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Kho Jabing hanged after bid to defer execution fails, lawyers receive ticking-off from court

SINGAPORE — Murderer Kho Jabing’s tortuous bid to escape the death penalty ended on Friday (May 20), with his hanging carried out hours after the apex court admonished the lawyers who had made the final attempt to hold off his execution, for abusing court processes.

SINGAPORE — Murderer Kho Jabing’s tortuous bid to escape the death penalty ended on Friday (May 20), with his hanging carried out hours after the apex court admonished the lawyers who had made the final attempt to hold off his execution, for abusing court processes.

The five judges who heard the case on Friday slammed lawyers Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss and Alfred Dodwell for trying to drag matters on when they had no new arguments — something they had warned against on two previous last-minute appeals to commute Kho’s death sentence.

The judges declared that such actions could not be allowed or they would “throw the whole system of justice into disrepute”.

Delivering the judgment on behalf of the court, Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin said: “This case has been about many things. But today, it is about the abuse of the process of the court.”

Kho, 31, a Sarawakian, 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 repeatedly with a tree branch, causing 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 gave judges the discretion to sentence certain types of murderers to life imprisonment instead.

But his reprieve was scrubbed following an appeal by prosecutors.

Kho was due to hang on Nov 6 last year but was granted a stay of execution less than 24 hours beforehand, when his lawyer contended that he had new and compelling evidence to prove a miscarriage of justice.

The appellate court dismissed the case in April this year, observing in its ruling that there have been more attempts to re-open criminal appeals that have concluded, with the majority of these being unmeritorious bids.

Kho’s execution was rescheduled to 6am Friday morning, but once again, his new lawyer, Gino Hardial Singh, appealed to commute his sentence at the last minute on Wednesday. The case was heard on Thursday and thrown out again, with the judges reiterating their warning against allowing convicted offenders to “prolong matters ad infinitum by drip-feeding their arguments one-by-one through the filing of multiple applications”.

But even before the hearing took place, Mrs Chong-Aruldoss and Mr Dodwell made an urgent application for Kho’s execution to be held off on grounds of constitutionality.

Friday’s hearing — the fifth time Kho’s case had gone before the Court of Appeal — saw the judges taking apart the lawyers’ arguments point by point, which they stressed were rehashed contentions that had been rejected.

“What the appellant seeks to do is to use the civil jurisdiction of the court to mount a collateral attack on a decision made by the court in the exercise of its criminal jurisdiction.

“Indeed, what the appellant has tried to do is even worse, for he has come to this court presenting arguments which are largely the same, if not identical, with the arguments he presented in his criminal motions,” said Justice Chao. “What the appellant has done today, if allowed, would throw the whole system of justice into disrepute.”

With the case being dismissed for the final time eight years after Kho was arrested, his family rushed down to Changi Prison before his execution was carried out at 3.30pm — believed to be the first time a death row inmate has been hanged outside of the traditional time of 6am on a Friday.

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