Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Appeals Court upholds acquittal of Thai woman accused of masterminding murder of first Japanese husb

Jun 27. 2019
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By The Nation

The Appeals Court Thursday upheld the lower court’s ruling to acquit a Thai woman accused of masterminding the killing of her first Japanese husband who was initially reported to have died falling down the stairs at his Samut Prakan residence in 2003.

The Appeals Court also agreed with the ruling of the Samut Prakarn Court against Somchai Kaewbangyang, 52, former husband of Pornchanok Chayapa, 52, which found Somchai killed Kashitoshi Tanaka, 57, in a rage stemming from jealousy.

Tanaka was reported to have died of a broken neck following a fall on the stairs at a house in Samut Prakan in 2003.

After Somchai and Pornchanok were arrested and charged over the death of her second Japanese husband, Yoshinori Shimato, 79, in 2014, police re-opened the case of Tanaka and public prosecutors charged the two with allegedly planning the murder of Tanaka and disguising it as an accident.

The Appeals Court on Thursday upheld the rulings of the Samut Prakan court that the killing of Tanaka was not premeditated and Pornchanok had not taken part in the killing.

The Samut Prakan court ruled on March 16 last year to sentence Somchai to 33 years and four months in jail for killing Tanaka and acquit Pornchanok. Somchai was initially sentenced to life imprisonment but the sentence was commuted following his guilty plea.

The public prosecutors appealed against the ruling and wanted Somchai to be convicted for premeditated murder and Pornchanok for masterminding it.

The Appeals Court Region 1’s verdict stated that the panel of judges had studied the case thoroughly and found that Somchai had definitely killed Tanaka by pushing him down the stairs and holding his neck against the stairway until he died.

But the appeals court also determined that there was no convincing evidence that Somchai planned the killing with Pornchanok.

Instead, the appeals court found that Somchai killed Tanaka in a fit of jealous rage after seeing them walking upstairs to their bedroom. Somchai waited for about four to five hours for Tanaka to come out of the room then pushed him down the stairs.

Without strong evidence that Somchai planned the killing, the court gave him the benefit of doubt and allowed the conviction of murder out of rage, which carried a lighter penalty, to stand,

The appeals court also ruled that Pornchanok did not know that Tanaka had life insurance. The court said evidence also showed that Somchai informed Porchanok of the killing only after the event and Pornchanok later sought help from others to disguise the death as accident.

The appeals court ruled that although Pornchanok told persons close to her not to tell anyone that Somchai was at the house the day Tanaaka died, she did it out of her loyalty to him as his former wife. The court also noted that Pornchanok gave such instructions a full day after her husband was killed.

As a result, the appeals court upheld the acquittal of Pornchanok on the basis of benefit of the doubt.

The appeals court also upheld the ruling and penalty against Somchai on the same principle.

Pornchanok remains in Bangkok Remand Prison for her alleged involvement in the murder of her second Japanese husband, Yoshinori Shimato, pending an appeal by the public prosecutors.

Shimato, a former Japanese language teacher, was stabbed and a pillow was pressed over his face until he died while he was bed-ridden at a house in Samut Prakan. His body was mutilated and dumped into a canal in Samut Prakan’s Bang Bor district.

Somchai pleaded guilty to killing Shimato but said he did it without planning it in advance. He also pleaded guilty of stealing the Japanese man’s notebook computer and other assets worth Bt45,390 and cash worth Bt3,000.

Pornchanok pleaded guilty to using Shimato’s ATM cards on 15 occasions to draw a total of Bt720,000 from his Bangkok Bank account.

The Criminal Court ruled that the public prosecutors had failed to provide strong evidence that Somchai planned the murder of Shimato with Pornchanok.

But the court found that Somchai had killed Shimato in a jealous rage. The court convicted Somchai for cutting the body up and using Pornchanok’s pickup truck to transport his body parts to a canal where he dumped them.

Since Somchai pleaded guilty, the court gave him a life sentence.

The Criminal Court acquitted Pornchanok in the murder also on the benefit of the doubt principle.

The Criminal Court convicted Pornchanok of stealing from Shimato’s bank account and in taking part in destroying and hiding the body. She was sentenced to 20 years in jail.

The Criminal Court also ordered Somchai to repay Bt45,390 and Pornchanok Bt720,000 to Shimato’s son, Tedsu-oh.

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