It has been convention that executions of convicted criminals be carried out before dawn on a Friday. The State deviated from that convention today, the first time this has been done since independence.
Kho Jabing was hanged at 3.30pm today, after the Court of Appeal lifted the stay of execution. His sister was due to celebrate her birthday tomorrow. She will have to commemorate it instead, with her brother’s demise.
Back in 2008, a heavily intoxicated Kho had picked up a piece of wood while approaching to rob Cao Ruyin of his money and mobile phone in a Geylang lane. He used this piece of wood - a tree branch - and attacked Cao with it.
Cao fell after Kho’s first blow was delivered from the back, and Kho continued to attack him around his head. Kho’s accomplice then joined in the attack on Cao. It was later found that Cao had 14 fractures in his skull, which ostensibly caused his death.
In 2011 Kho Jabing was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. However, because of legal reform allowing the court to decide between the death penalty and life imprisonment in murder cases, Kho appealed and was re-sentenced to life imprisonment.
The prosecution appealed, and in January last year, the Court of Appeal upheld the original sentence of death.
Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang and Justice Chan Seng Onn were “completely satisfied” that the way Kho rained blow after blow on the head of Chinese national Cao Ruyin, even after he was lying on the ground, meant he deserved the death penalty.
“The sheer savagery and brutality displayed by (Kho) shows that during the course of the attack, (he) just simply could not care less as to whether the deceased would survive although his intention at the time was only to rob,” said Justice Chao.
Kho Jabing had been due to be executed this morning at 6am. At 11pm last night, a notice of appeal was lodged, and a stay of execution was granted until the hearing of the appeal at 9am this morning. Some time around noon today, the court of appeal lifted the stay of execution.
It was then directed that Kho Jabing be hanged at 3:30pm today, which he apparently was, promptly.
The executioner and his colleagues would have prepared for this in advance. Kho Jabing’s height and weight would have been recorded a short time before he was due to be executed, so that the correct length of a newly procured rope could be measured and cut.
Execution by hanging is apparently carried out in two ways:
The standard drop, which arrived as calculated in English units, involves a drop of between 4 and 6 feet (1.2 and 1.8 m) and came into use from 1866, when the scientific details were published by an Irish doctor, Samuel Haughton. Immediately, its use spread to English-speaking countries and those where judicial systems had an English origin. It was considered a humane improvement on the short drop because it was intended to be enough to break the person’s neck, causing immediate paralysis and immobilization (and probable immediate unconsciousness). This method was used to execute condemned Nazis under United States jurisdiction after the Nuremberg Trials including Joachim von Ribbentrop and Ernst Kaltenbrunner. In the execution of Ribbentrop, historian Giles MacDonogh records that: “The hangman botched the execution and the rope throttled the former foreign minister for twenty minutes before he expired.” An article in Life magazine dated 28 October 1946, merely says of Ribbentrop’s execution: “The trap fell open and with a sound midway between a rumble and a crash, Ribbentrop disappeared. The rope quivered for a time, then stood tautly straight.”
This process, also known as the measured drop, was introduced to Britain in 1872 by William Marwood as a scientific advance on the standard drop. Instead of everyone falling the same standard distance, the person’s height and weight were used to determine how much slack would be provided in the rope so that the distance dropped would be enough to ensure that the neck was broken, but not so much that the person was decapitated. The careful placement of the eye or knot of the noose (so that the head was jerked back as the rope tightened) contributed to breaking the neck.
Prior to 1892, the drop was between four and ten feet (about one to three metres), depending on the weight of the body, and was calculated to deliver a force of 1,260 lbf (5,600 newtons or 572 kgf), which fractured the neck at either the 2nd and 3rd or 4th and 5th cervical vertebrae. However, this force resulted in some decapitations, such as the infamous case of Black Jack Ketchum in New Mexico Territory in 1901, owing to a significant weight gain while in custody not having been factored into the drop calculations. Between 1892 and 1913, the length of the drop was shortened to avoid decapitation. After 1913, other factors were also taken into account, and the force delivered was reduced to about 1,000 lbf (4,400 N or 450 kgf). The decapitation of Eva Dugan during a botched hanging in 1930 led the state of Arizona to switch to the gas chamber as its primary execution method, on the grounds that it was believed more humane. One of the more recent decapitations as a result of the long drop occurred when Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti was hanged in Iraq in 2007. Accidental decapitation also occurred during the 1962 hanging of Arthur Lucas, one of the last two people to be put to death in Canada. It is unknown if many of these decapitations resulted despite adequate calculations and precautions such as a properly boiled, oiled and pre-stretched rope.
It is important that we know the State uses either of these meticulous methods (I don’t know for sure — I don’t think the executioners are allowed to talk about it) of dispatching criminals we deem to be deserving of death, because we kill them in the name of preventing others from committing the same heinous crimes. And because if it is in deterrence that we preserve and persevere with capital punishment, then we must show for all to see, the process of how we kill those who deserve to die. We should also announce for all to see and hear that someone is about to be executed, for that would further the purpose of deterrence.
And if a person deserves to die for killing another person, why should the State even try to execute him in punishment, in a ‘more humane’ way? It defies logic.
But if you, like me, cringe at these thoughts, then you know there is something very wrong about a State-sanctioned, premeditated, killing of a person.