In September 2011, PRC Wang Wenfeng was convicted of murdering a taxi driver in 2011. He was given a life sentence but prosecution lawyers pressed an appeal to have the sentence increased to death by hanging.
However, yesterday the court ruled that the life sentence ruling would be upheld. Wang, visibly relieved, fell to his knees with joy and pressed his palms together in gratitude to his lawyer. Wang’s lawyer Wendell Wong says Wang will treasure the life he had been given.
The prosecution said that it had reviewed Wang’s case in view of the changes to the law in 2013, which gave judges the discretion to opt for a life sentence in some cases.
In January this year, the Court of Appeal comprising 5 judges issued a landmark ruling that the death penalty was warranted in cases where the offender had acted in a way that would “outrage the feelings of the community”. If it was ruled that the person “exhibits viciousness or a blatant disregard for human life” that would outrage the feelings of the community, he or she would hence deserve the death penalty.
In Wang’s case, the court could not effectively assess the level of brutality against his victim, 58 year-old Singaporean taxi driver Yuen Swee Hong, because the body was highly decomposed by the time it was found.
In 2011, Wang, who was an odd-job worker, had been given the death penalty that was then mandatory under the law for murder after he was convicted of fatally stabbing Mr Yuen inside his taxi in the early hours of 11th April 2009.
According to his lawyer, Wang was desperate for cash and had merely wanted to rob the cabby.
When the taxi arrived at Sembawang Park, Wang stuck his knife at Mr Yuen’s chest and demanded money. A struggle ensued and the cabby was stabbed.
Wang thought that he had killed Mr Yuen and decided to carry the driver’s body into the park.
Wang was arrested two days later, and four days afterwards, he led police to the badly decomposed body. Due to the stage of decomposition, the forensic autopsy could not determine the cause of death.
In November 2013, Wang was re-sentenced to life in prison and 24 strokes of the cane. The prosecution, which had pressed for a death sentence, filed an appeal.
Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Eugene Lee said that the brutality of Wang’s attack could not be assessed. In mitigation for Wang’s case, it was felt that Wang had injured the cabby in the course of a struggle.