Death sentence surprises defendant, spectators

by Ni Komang Erviani on 2013-01-23

Death row: Briton Lindsay June Sandiford closes her eyes and looks down as she listens to the panel of judges reading out her sentence. BD/Zul Trio AnggonoDeath row: Briton Lindsay June Sandiford closes her eyes and looks down as she listens to the panel of judges reading out her sentence. BD/Zul Trio Anggono

Briton Lindsay June Sandiford, 56, who was on trial for smuggling 4.7 kilograms of cocaine, and the spectators who attended her final trial session on Tuesday, were equally taken by surprise when the panel of judges at Denpasar District Court sentenced her to death.

The verdict was far heavier than 15 years imprisonment sought by the prosecutors. Although the existing legal system and codes here have never specifically limited the judges’ authority in deciding a sentence in relation to the demand filed by the prosecutor, it is very rare for the panel of judges to issue a verdict that is significantly different, both in form and length, to the one sought by the prosecutor.

“The defendant is convincingly proven guilty of importing narcotics as regulated in Article 113 of the 2009 Narcotics Law. We hereby sentence the defendant to the death penalty,” presiding judge Amser Simanjuntak said.

Sandiford looked stunned by the verdict. However, unlike in the previous sessions, when she sobbed repeatedly, this time the mother of two managed to keep her composure. She kept her eyes down and had a troubled expression on her face.

Similar disbelief was also seen on the faces of her lawyer and the spectators, who entered the courtroom with the belief that Sandiford might have to deal with 10 -15 years’ imprisonment, particularly since the court had displayed such generosity and mercy to the other three Britons and one Indian national implicated in the case.

“We give seven days for the defendant to file an appeal over the verdict,” Amser added.

Member of the panel of judges, IGB Komang Wijaya Adi, cited several aggravating factors that convinced the judges to hand down the harsh sentence.

“The defendant’s actions tainted the image of Bali as a tourist destination and also went against the government’s efforts in eradicating drug smuggling.”

Moreover, the panel of judges viewed the defendant as being uncooperative during the trial.

“She repeatedly refused to acknowledge that the 4.7 kilograms of cocaine was hers, she didn’t provide the court with straight answers and she didn’t show any remorse for her wrongdoings.”

The panel of judges dashed out of the courtroom immediately after declaring the end of the trial session, thus, preventing the awaiting journalists from questioning the reasons behind the verdict.

The prosecutor, Lie Putra Setiawan, said that he respected the verdict as the judges’ best decision. “It is the judges’ authority to give the sentence, and we respect it,” he said.

Sandiford, on the other hand, refused to give any comment. Naturally, her lawyer, Esra Karo Karo, announced that he was deeply disappointed with the verdict.

“She was forced to take part in this criminal act, the drug syndicate had sent her several threats. She also has been diagnosed with depression and treated with a course of medication. The judges should be considering that,” he said, adding that he would file an appeal soon.

The panel of judges had apparently also disregarded the fact that immediately following her arrest, Sandiford had cooperated with the law enforcement agencies in identifying her network. She was arrested May 19 after Ngurah Rai Airport’s customs officers found 4.7 kilograms of cocaine stashed inside the lining of her suitcase.

Sandiford agreed to cooperate with the police in carrying out a controlled delivery to net the other suspects. Julian Anthony Ponder and his associate Paul Beales were arrested in Candidasa, Karangasem, on May 25, when Ponder allegedly received 4.7 kg of cocaine from Sandiford. The police later arrested Ponder’s partner, Rachel Lisa Dougall, and Indian national Nanda Gopal.

In previous trial sessions, Sandiford claimed that she was the courier for a drug-smuggling operation masterminded by Rachel Lisa Dougall, the women dubbed the Bali Drug Queen by the British media due to her lavish lifestyle. Sandiford disclosed that she met Dougall and Beales in Bangkok before she took the flight to Denpasar. She said that Beales placed the drugs in the lining of her suitcase and that Dougall was the owner of the drugs. Both denied the accusation.

In separate trials, prosecutors had failed to produce concrete evidence that connected Dougall, Ponder, Beales and Nanda Gopal with the smuggling attempt carried out by Sandiford.

Eventually, the prosecutors settled for minor charges of illegal possession and, in Dougall’s case, a petty charge of failure to notify the authorities of the presence of narcotics in her house.

Dougall was sentenced with one year imprisonment, Beales got four years, Nanda Gopal five years, and the prosecutor in Ponder’s case has requested seven years imprisonment.

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