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Vietnam’s supreme court upholds sentence for death row inmate in high-profile murder case

Saturday, May 09, 2020, 16:00 GMT+7
Vietnam’s supreme court upholds sentence for death row inmate in high-profile murder case
Nguyen Hoa Binh (standing), chief justice of the People’s Supreme Court of Vietnam, reads the court’s decision at the cassation trial for the case involving death row inmate Ho Duy Hai in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Giang Long / Tuoi Tre

The People’s Supreme Court of Vietnam on Friday voted unanimously to turn down the request of the Supreme People’s Procuracy to reinvestigate a high-profile case in which a man was sentenced to death for murdering two young women around 12 years ago.

A cassation trial was held in Hanoi from May 6 to 8 to deliberate over the case of Ho Duy Hai, 35, a death row inmate who resides in the Mekong Delta province of Long An.

On Friday afternoon, all 17 justices of the Supreme Court voted in favor of the lower courts’ decisions to uphold the death sentence for Hai for the double homicide.

The case

Hai’s 57-year-old mother Nguyen Thi Loan, who believes her son was wrongfully convicted, has been making pleas to authorities for the review of his case for the past decade.

The case dated back to January 14, 2008, when two female postal workers were found dead at the Cau Voi Post Office in the outlying district of Thu Thua in Long An Province, around 59 kilometers southwest of Ho Chi Minh City.

The victims were cousins Nguyen Thi Anh Hong and Nguyen Thi Thu Van, who were born in 1985 and 1987, respectively.

Their bodies were found with their throats cut open. One of them was nearly decapitated while the other sustained serious injuries to the head, according to the case files.

Two months later, Hai was arrested on suspicion of the double murder and robbery.

Ho Duy Hai, who was sentenced to death for the double murder of two women in Long An Province, Vietnam in 2008, stands trial at a court in this file photo.
Ho Duy Hai, who was sentenced to death for the double murder of two women in Long An Province, Vietnam in 2008, stands trial at a court in this file photo.

Previous verdicts against Hai said around 7:30 pm on January 13, 2008, the man came to visit the cousins at the Cau Voi Post Office, which closed one hour later.

He gave Van a sum of money to go outside and buy fruits. While Van was absent, he allegedly had an intention of having sex with Hong, but she rejected the idea outright.

This prompted the man to murder Hong. Worried that Van would later report him to the police when she returned, he waited inside the post office to ambush and kill Van as well, according to the court judgments.

Around VND1 million ($43) in cash, around 40 to 50 SIM cards, one mobile phone, and several pieces of jewelry from the victims were allegedly taken from the crime scene.

During his trial and appellate courts in December 2008 and April 2009, he pleaded not guilty to the two charges, but all to no avail.

He was thus handed five years behind bars for robbery and the death penalty for murder.

On May 2012, then-Vietnamese State President Truong Tan Sang turned down Hai’s application to have his death sentence reduced to life imprisonment.

In November 24, 2014, authorities announced they intended to execute the man on December 5 that year.

However, after considering the man and his family’s pleas, the State president made an unprecedented decision to ask the People’s Supreme Court to halt his execution.

In early 2015, Le Thi Nga, who served as a deputy head of the lawmaking National Assembly’s Judiciary Committee at the time, urged the legislative body to review the case, saying that there were severe violations committed during the prosecution process.

On December 2019, the Supreme People’s Procuracy urged the Supreme People’s Court to void trial and appellate judgments in the case and issue an order for a new probe.

According to the procuracy, the judgments from the trial and appellate courts were inconsistent with the objective reality of the case, while the gathering and examination of evidence and other documents were also not completed.

The case contained many conflicting points that has yet to be clarified, it said.

Nguyen Thi Loan (center), the mother of Vietnamese death row inmate Ho Duy Hai, is seen in a photo with her youngest sister (right) and daughter (left). Photo: Nam Tran / Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Thi Loan (center), the mother of Vietnamese death row inmate Ho Duy Hai, is seen in a photo with her youngest sister (right) and daughter (left). Photo: Nam Tran / Tuoi Tre

Death penalty upheld

The panel of judges at the Supreme Court said on Friday that Hai had given his testimony in the presence of investigators, prosecutors and defense lawyers.

He confessed to having killed the two postal workers and later robbing the victims and the Cau Voi Post Office, according to the panel.

There had been sufficient grounds for the lower courts to convict Hai of the charges, the justices said on Friday.

The panel admitted there were shortcomings in the investigation, prosecution and trial proceedings of the case, but these mistakes did not alter the nature of the case.

Therefore, they said it is unnecessary to void the first-instance and appellate judgments for reinvestigation as requested by the Supreme People’s Procuracy.

The man’s death sentence was therefore upheld.

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