SINGAPORE — For a second time, convicted murderer Jabing Kho has launched an eleventh-hour bid to escape the hangman’s noose — his appeal this time being over Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang’s involvement in two stages of his case.
The 31-year-old Sarawakian, who is reportedly set for execution tomorrow, will have his case heard in the Court of Appeal this afternoon, following an urgent application filed by Mr Gino Hardial Singh from Prestige Legal.
Noting that Justice Phang heard Kho’s first appeal in 2010 and again in 2013, in the prosecution’s appeal against the offender being re-sentenced to life imprisonment with the maximum 24 strokes of the cane, Mr Singh will be arguing that apparent bias has arisen.
“The apparent bias arises not from the mere fact that Justice Phang sat twice but because the judges’ perception of the accused’s intention or recklessness arising out of the factual issue of the number of physical blows dealt to the victim was in issue in the conviction appeal and also in issue in the re-sentencing appeal, so in effect, Justice Phang was sitting on an appeal against his own decision on that issue,” the lawyer said yesterday, when contacted.
Mr Singh, who is taking the case on a pro bono basis, said he was briefed by Kho’s sister, Jumai, on Tuesday morning and interviewed the offender at Changi Prison the same afternoon to take his instructions. Various Malaysian media outlets have reported that Kho’s family had been informed that the execution would be carried out tomorrow.
Kho had carried out a fatal robbery with a fellow countryman in 2008 and was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty. Together with Galing Anak Kujat, he had attacked construction workers Cao Ruyin and Wu Jun near Geylang Drive while trying to rob them. Kho struck Cao on the head with a tree branch so hard that the victim sustained 14 fractures in his skull and died six days later.
His roller-coaster court bid began in 2011 when he failed in his appeal against the sentence, only to be spared the hangman’s noose two years later when amendments to the mandatory death penalty regime kicked in. The change gave judges the discretion to impose life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane instead in some murder cases. Justice Phang was among the three judges in this appeal.
But the prosecution appealed against Kho’s new sentence, arguing that he had shown “scant regard for human life”. In January last year, Kho was sentenced to death again in a rare 3-2 split decision by the Court of Appeal, with Justice Phang among those in the majority camp.
Kho’s appeal for clemency was turned down in October.
But less than 24 hours before he was to hang, his lawyer then, Mr Chandra Mohan K Nair, secured a stay of execution by raising questions about the evidence presented during the trial.
The appeal was dismissed, with Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin ruling that the defence had produced very little new material, let alone compelling material, that would justify the “exceptional recourse” of a review of the death sentence handed down.