Two death row cases sent back for review

Theirs are first murder cases to be returned to court after changes to law

TWO murderers on death row were given a chance to escape the gallows yesterday despite appeals against their murder convictions being dismissed.

Indian national Bijukumar Remadevi Nair Gopinathan and Malaysian Jabing Kho are the first to have their cases sent back to the High Court for re-sentencing.

It follows changes made to the law last year giving judges the discretion to impose either the death penalty or life imprisonment for certain categories of murder.

Gopinathan, 37, and Kho, 26, involved in unrelated killings, are the first death-row inmates to have their cases sent back for review under the new law.

When a review of the mandatory death penalty started in July 2011, hangings were put on hold for condemned prisoners. As of October last year, 34 such prisoners were given a lifeline.

In separate brief hearings yesterday, their respective lawyers Mr Shashi Nathan and Mr Anand Nalachandran applied to the Court of Appeal for their cases to be sent back for re-sentencing. The prosecution did not object.

Separate hearings will be held at a later date for the High Court to hear arguments on whether they should be handed the death penalty. The High Court's decision is open for appeal.

Under the law, there are four clauses to cover different categories of murder. Before the changes to the law, the death penalty was mandatory for anyone convicted of any category of murder.

Now the death penalty is mandatory only for Section 300(a), which involves acts carried out with the intention of causing death. The death penalty is discretionary for other clauses.

Gopinathan and Kho stand convicted of murder under Section 300(c), which involves acts done with the intention of causing bodily injury that would ordinarily be sufficient to cause death.

Construction worker Gopinathan killed Filipino prostitute Roselyn Reyes Pascua, 30, in 2010. Her body was found in her room in Bencoolen Street with multiple stab wounds. He was initially convicted under both Section 300(a) and (c), but last September his conviction under 300(a) was quashed by the Court of Appeal.

Kho, 26, who worked for a rag and bone company, bashed Chinese national Cao Ruyin, 40, to death in 2008 while robbing him. He was convicted in 2010 and his appeal was dismissed in 2011.