SINGAPORE - A Sarawakian due to hang on Friday for a brutal murder seven years ago was given a temporary reprieve on Thursday after filing an 11th-hour motion.
Jabing Kho, 31, was granted a stay of execution by the five-judge Court of Appeal that had sentenced him - not because it agreed with his bid to escape the gallows, but to give his newly appointed lawyer more time to prepare his case.
Mr Chandra Mohan K Nair, who was briefed by Kho's family only on Tuesday night, had filed a criminal motion on Wednesday asking for a stay of execution until the court makes a ruling on the arguments to quash his death sentence.
An earlier motion to stave off the hanging was filed by non-practising lawyer M Ravi after Kho's clemency plea was rejected. At the same hearing on Thursday, he argued that he has the legal standing to argue the case for Kho as a "concerned citizen" and "anti-death penalty activist".
When asked by the court to reconsider pursuing the case now that Kho has legal representation, Mr Ravi declined.
In the case, Chinese national Cao Ruyin, 40, a construction worker, was walking along Geylang Drive with a friend, Wu Jun, 44, when they were attacked by Kho and an accomplice, Galing Kujat. This was on Feb 17, 2008.
While Mr Wu received outpatient treatment, Mr Cao - who was hit with a tree branch - died of head injuries six days later.
A court heard then that the multiple fractures on Mr Cao's head were as severe as those suffered by victims in high-impact traffic collisions.
Kho's fate has seen many twists and turns since he and his accomplice were sentenced to hang for murder in 2010.
On appeal, Kujat escaped the gallows in 2011 after he was convicted of robbery with hurt instead and sentenced to 181/2 years' jail and 19 strokes of the cane.
Kho's appeal failed. However, he was given a reprieve with a life sentence in 2013, after the law was changed to give judges discretion to opt for a life term in certain categories of murder.
But the prosecution appealed, arguing that his savage actions warranted the death penalty.
In a landmark ruling in January, the five-judge court gave a split 3-2 decision in favour of sending Kho to the gallows for the brutal way he attacked Mr Cao, who suffered 14 fractures in his skull.
Kho appealed for clemecy but he was told last month that his bid was turned down by President Tony Tan Keng Yam on the Cabinet's advice.
No date has yet been set for the next court hearing.