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Jakarta Post

Guilty or not, Jessica to face verdict

  • Indra Budiari

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, October 27, 2016   /  07:10 am
Guilty or not, Jessica to face verdict Murder defendant Jessica Kumala Wongso attends a court hearing at the Central Jakarta District Court on Sept. 1 (Antara/Widodo S. Jusuf)

One of the most dramatic and gripping murder trials in the nation’s history will enter its final phase today when judges decide whether or not Australian permanent resident Jessica Kumala Wongso is guilty of murdering her friend, Wayan Mirna Salihin.

Millions of people have been following the case since day one. They will be intensely focused on the panel of three judges who are going to read Jessica’s verdict at the Central Jakarta District Court on Thursday.

The case began with the death of Wayan Mirna Salihin on the way to hospital after she collapsed suddenly at an upscale restaurant while sipping a Vietnamese iced coffee and hanging out with a couple of friends.

The theory that her death was caused by sodium cyanide in her drink has been circulated by the police but no direct witness nor video surveillance footage could confirm Jessica was the culprit.

For Jessica, the accusations against her came hard and fast even before she was named the sole suspect in the case.

Police detectives have argued that because Jessica picked the venue and ordered the Vietnamese iced coffee for Mirna that those details could prove her culpability in the case.

Jessica insisted she was innocent, saying the “accusation was built on the basis of several coincidences”.

It took some time for the police to bring Jessica’s case to prosecution. They were forced to revise the case dossier five times because the prosecutors thought the case lacked evidence. The prosecutors finally declared it “complete” on May 26 about four months after Jessica was named a suspect.

On June 15, Jessica began a marathon trial that was broadcast live on national television, turning it into a national spectacle.

In the trial, the prosecutors accused Jessica of murdering Mirna because Mirna made a bad remark about Jessica’s boyfriend. That was the motive, they said.

Jessica, they said, also lacked empathy, a claim they said was corroborated by court testimony from a psychologist.

Another important piece of evidence is, according to the prosecutors, the testimony from a waiter, who suggested Jessica might have done something to Mirna’s coffee as the straw had been opened before Mirna arrived, though the straw had now gone missing.

Based on the evidence, the prosecutors said that a conviction for Jessica was unavoidable.

Jessica’s defense team, led by senior lawyer Otto Hasibuan, had presented an army of experts to exonerate Jessica from the accusation that he claimed was built by the prosecutors to pin the murder on his client.

Pathology, toxicology and forensic experts were brought all the way from Australia to tell the court that there was a possibility that Mirna did not die from poisoning as no autopsy was carried out on her body, which left the public in suspense about what really happened at the restaurant on Jan. 6.

Jessica had also presented her defense. With a quivering voice and tears pouring from her eyes, Jessica said Mirna was a friend with whom she could talk, laugh and share secrets.

She also lamented the fact that she had been judged by society throughout the trial.

“My family has been publicly shamed, and I have been treated like the scum of the Earth since the case started,” Jessica told the court.

Mirna’s family, along with other individuals related to the case, have tried to sway public opinion against Jessica by holding a series of press conferences, in addition to other tactics.

The prosecutors demanded that Jessica be sentenced to 20 years in prison for her alleged crime, but it will be up to Binsar Gultom, Kisworo and Partahi Tulus Hutapea, the judges throughout the 135-day trial, to decide if Jessica will be acquitted or sentenced to a severe punishment.

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