Setting the record straight on Nagaenthran’s case: the hard evidence and what the court documents say

court, mental, appeal, appellant, basis, reports, light, medical, ravi, see

They say the death penalty is the ultimate sanction, and in death all debts to are repaid in full.

It is thus not our intent to revisit the deeds of a deceased person. But it’s important to put forth some to illuminate certain issues obscured by most of the news stories, which appeared to be mostly clones of each other in substance, and to counter the narrative that certain activist quarters are continuing to push, with some facts.

That Nagaetheran was mentally retarded

It is important, and telling to note that the claim of Nagaetheran’s mental retardation did not come up as a defence in his original trial [1]. Nor was it brought up as an issue in his 1st appeal [2]. 

In 2012, parliament amended the law scrapping the mandatory death penalty for certain categories of capital offences. The changes also opened the way for retroactive examination of previous capital convictions. Judges now have the discretion to not impose the death penalties provided certain conditions are met. One of which is the accused having a mental disability which substantially impairs his appreciation of the gravity of the act.

Interestingly, his alleged mental retardation was first raised as an issue only AFTER this.

One can read the technical details of the judgements including experts’ opinions on the allegations of mental retardation and mental impairment in subsequent appeals online. [3][4][5]

The court found he had given different, but individually consistent and detail rich accounts of his act to different parties. He demonstrated manipulation, planning and forward thinking in his actions. It is worth remembering also that Nagaetheran was a functioning, independent living individual. He worked as a welder in Johor. He had a girlfriend.

We leave the readers to draw their own conclusions.

Claim: That he was not accorded a fair trial because psychiatric evidence was not fully considered.

Malaysian human rights lawyer N Surendran, together with M Ravi (who took over the case from MR Eugene Thuraisingam) made the above allegations. [6]

Yet where there were independent and current psychiatric reports available in time for his last ditch appeal, M Ravi sought to prevent the court from seeing those reports. 

In his final judgement the Chief Justice notes in the final appeal, in paragraph 69:

"Counsel who file unmeritorious applications, when they know or ought reasonably to know that the application is without basis, is acting up. This will readily be found to be the case where the application is patently unmeritorious (see Miya Manik at [82]). In the present case, the court was moved by counsel on the purported basis of a deterioration in the appellant's mental faculties, without any factual or legal grounds.

Further, to the extent, there is evidence that could shed light on this (namely the medical and psychiatric reports), Mr Ravi and Ms Netto have sought to prevent the court from looking at it (see [36]-[37], [49] and [51]-[51] above). "The factual assertion of a deterioration in the appellant's mental faculties has been advanced on the basis of the purported belief of a solicitor who evidently had a single brief meeting with the appellant over the last three years, who is directly interested in the case, who lacks any qualifications to make or advance this opinion, and who has professed no basis at all for forming the or belief. Yet, we have been asked to grant relief on this basis.

At the same time, there are contemporaneous medical records and psychiatric and medical assessments of the appellant carried out on 5 August 2021, and 3 November 2021, respectively and the appellant and his counsel are objecting to our seeing it.

These records and reports could have been highly probative evidence in the court's assessment of the appellant's mental condition if this was in fact, a genuine concern.

Seen in that light, the objection mounted on the appellant's behalf supports the inference that he is aware of the evidential difficulties with his case and is seeking to prevent the court from accessing that evidence because he knows or believes it would undermine his case."

And paragraph 51:

"We note at this juncture that the psychiatric and medical reports, which the respondent was prepared to disclose, could not only have shed real light on the appellant’s present state of mind and any observed changes over time, coming as they do from trained personnel and presumptively being of probative value (see [36]–[37] above), but if it reflects what the respondent contends, it would have assuaged any genuine concerns that Mr Navinkumar (Nagatheran’s brother) harbours. It may also be noted that the reports were produced by third parties as part of scheduled check-ups, and not as a litigation response to OS 1109 or CM 30. These reports should therefore be regarded as presumptively objective."

Again, we reserve conclusions to the reader.

It would be ironic to allege unfairness just because one was unsuccessful in obtaining the outcome one desired. Mr Ravi himself should know, as he had been successful in same system before, such as in the case of Gobi Avedian. [8][9]

Interestingly, the honourable CJ Menon was on the bench for both the prosecution’s appeal against Gobi Avedian and the accused’s subsequent appeal, which Mr Ravi was ultimately successful for his client.

Reading the various judgements, one gets a clear sense that gravity of capital cases weigh heavily on the courts, that the courts treat each case seriously, and the courts are always fully prepared to consider new discoveries to cases, even when the prescribed avenues of appeal have been exhausted, as Mr Ravi has demonstrated above.

But looking at the actions of certain parties, we cannot help but wonder if these people were more interested in the actual outcome of the case, or were more intent on creating drama and optics for themselves, or were more intent on painting the Singapore Government in a negative light overseas.

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