Contractor escapes gallows thanks to trial judge’s misstep

courtPUTRAJAYA: A contractor who stabbed to death his relative after a drinking session today escaped the death penalty due to a misstep by the trial judge.

The Federal Court instead sentenced Paul Lagang anak Malip to 20 years’ after finding him guilty of killing, without intention, Morris Asang Yahya.

“We are substituting the charge from murder to culpable homicide due to the manner the trial was conducted,” said Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum, who chaired the five-man bench.

He said the conviction for murder was “unsafe”.

Malanjum, in the course of the proceeding, said the trial judge had played the role of prosecutor.

Another member of the bench, Jeffrey Tan Kok Hwa, remarked that the judge had crossed the line by asking incriminating questions to eye-witness, Robin Bapi.

Lawyer Gobind Singh Deo, appearing for Paul, told the bench the trial judge did not allow him to cross-examine Robin to determine his veracity and reliability as a prosecution witness.

Gobind said the judge had also observed that Robin, being from the Kenyah community in Sarawak, needed an interpreter but this was not made available.

“As a result, material part of his evidence, especially on the stabbing incident was incomprehensible,” he said.

The lawyer said the bench should either send the case back for retrial or reduce the charge.

Paul, 30 committed the offence at No 24A-2, Jalan Utama 2/1, Taman Puchong Utama, in Bukit Puchong, between 9.30pm and 10.30pm on Aug 13, 2013.

Government lawyer K Mangai urged the court to impose a jail term ranging between 20 and 25 years.