Hong Kong double murder trial: Jury to decide on whether killer banker's judgment was 'substantially' impaired

A prison van carrying British banker Rurik Jutting arriving at the High Court in Hong Kong on Nov 7, 2016.
A prison van carrying British banker Rurik Jutting arriving at the High Court in Hong Kong on Nov 7, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - A Hong Kong judge ordered the jury in British banker Rurik Jutting's double murder trial not to allow its verdict to be influenced by "passion or disgust"over the torture, rape and killings, but to weigh the evidence intellectually.

Jutting has pleaded not guilty to murdering two Indonesian women in his Hong Kong apartment in 2014 on grounds of diminished responsibility due to alcohol and drug abuse and sexual disorders. He has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

The jury of four women and five men is due to start considering its verdict on Tuesday (Nov 8). Murder carries a mandatory life sentence, while the lesser charge of manslaughter carries a maximum of life.

Jutting, a former vice president and head of Structured Equity Finance and Trading (Asia) at Bank of America Corp, is charged with murdering Ms Sumarti Ningsih, 23, and Ms Seneng Mujiasih, 26, in his luxury high-rise apartment.

The trial, in its third week, has attracted global attention due to the 31-year-old Cambridge graduate's profile and the brutal nature of the killings in a city where serious crime is rare.

The jury has viewed graphic video taken by Jutting on his iPhone of him torturing Ms Ningsih before he cut her throat. Her mutilated body was found in a suitcase on the balcony, while Ms Mujiasih's was found inside the apartment with wounds to her neck and buttocks.

He has not faced separate charges connected to the rape and torture.

Deputy High Court Judge Michael Stuart-Moore told the jury to consider whether Jutting was of "abnormal mind" at the time of the killings, which diminished his responsibility.

The jury should approach its verdict intellectually, rather than be "coloured by passion or disgust that you feel at the dreadful acts which the defendant has admitted he carried out", said Judge Stuart-Moore.

The defence has argued that Jutting suffers from cocaine and alcohol abuse and personality disorders of sexual sadism and narcissism, which impaired his ability to control his behaviour.

The prosecution has rejected this, stating that Jutting was able to form judgments and exercise self control before and after the killings, filming Ms Ningsih's torture and shooting hours of footage where he discussed the killings, binging on cocaine and his graphic sexual fantasies.

Judge Stuart-Moore, speaking in a packed courtroom stacked with international media, law students and members of the public, said the fact that Jutting "has an appalling private life is neither here nor there".

The fact that Jutting has not testified himself during the trial doesn't prove one thing or another, he added.

He said the defence needed to prove whether it was more likely than not that Jutting's mental responsibility for his actions was "substantially impaired", taking into consideration factors including whether his "perception, understanding, judgment and self-control" were abnormal and whether there was an "inherent cause or induced by disease or injury".

Deputy High Court Judge Stuart-Moore summarised both sides for the jury, including evidence from Jutting's own filmed transcripts and the evidence from a series of qualified psychiatrists and experts.

"Yes he was impaired, everyone agrees, but was he substantially impaired?" he said, trying to focus the jury on the nuance they would be deciding.

He quoted Jutting in one of his filmed monologues where he discussed going to jail. "How many life sentences can one serve?" he said.