Man escapes death after apex court acquittal
A 27-year-old man, originally handed the death penalty for driving his friend to pick up drugs, escaped the gallows yesterday after he was cleared by the Court of Appeal.
The acquittal was the first apex court decision to be delivered via video-conferencing platform Zoom since Covid-19 safe distancing measures were put in place.
The remote hearing was attended by five judges, the two accused persons, their lawyers, a prosecutor and two interpreters. The media was allowed to observe.
The case involved Mohammad Azli Mohammad Salleh and Roszaidi Osman, 48, who were sentenced to the mandatory death penalty for trafficking in 32.54g of heroin by the High Court last year.
In allowing Azli's appeal against his conviction for abetting Roszaidi, the apex court found there was no basis to conclude he knew the drugs in question were heroin.
"On the evidence, the most that can be said is that he believed that Roszaidi was going to collect and transport methamphetamine on the night of the offence," said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who delivered the judgment.
Azli still faces five pending drug charges in the State Courts, including abetting Roszaidi to traffic in methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine.
On the night of Oct 6, 2015, Azli drove Roszaidi to collect a bag of drugs from two Malaysians who were in a parked lorry.
Azli then drove to a place near his friend's home, where Roszaidi passed most of the drugs to his wife. The five people involved in the transaction were arrested soon after.
When asked by investigators to name the drugs Roszaidi collected, Azli replied "sejuk and panas", referring to methamphetamine and heroin, respectively.
However, the apex court said his reference to "sejuk and panas" was ambiguous as to the time at which he learnt the nature of the drugs.
The court found that the more plausible interpretation of Azli's answer was that it referred to his knowledge at the time the statement was recorded, and not at the time he was chauffeuring Roszaidi.
The court pointed out that later that day, Azli said he thought the trip was "just a quick meet-up... to collect Ice and then go back". Ice is a street name for methamphetamine.
Roszaidi's appeal against conviction for trafficking was dismissed.
However, the court sent his case back to the High Court for psychiatric evidence to be heard, to determine whether he should get life imprisonment instead.