Nagaenthran Dhamalingam’s death penalty due to drug trafficking is perhaps one of the most controversial and debated executions online.
Despite the protests and the dozen of appeal requests, Nagaenthran is still fated for the gallows after the court rejected his last appeal on Tuesday (29 Mar).
Now, only a pardon from the Singaporean President Halimah Yacob can save his life.
The news has other news outlets clamouring, like CNN for instance, insisting on Nagaenthran’s intellectual disability even though the court has overruled that argument numerous times.
The Process of Appeal
Nagaenthran was initially arrested by the border police in 2009 for bringing 47.7 grams of diamorphine into Singapore, strapped across thighs.
Owing to the huge amount of drugs in his possession—which exceeded 15g—he was given the mandatory death sentence in 2010.
Ever since then, his lawyers have been filing appeal after appeal to reduce Nagaenthran’s sentence, but to avail.
The accused was originally slated for the hangman’s noose in Nov 2021, with his Malaysian family being informed of his imminent execution in Oct 2021.
Shortly thereafter, a constitutional challenge and the last appeal was filed.
Just mere days before his execution, however, Nagaenthran contracted COVID-19 which briefly spared him from the hangman’s noose.
The appeal hearing was also pushed back until he was fit to stand before the court.
The Controversy Behind his Execution
The main reason why Nagaenthran’s story had attracted so much international attention is because of his mental disabilities.
Reportedly, a psychologist determined that his IQ was only 69, a quotient that is internally recognised as an intellectual disability.
Additionally, his defence lawyers piled on the fact that Nagaenthran had severe attention hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), borderline intellectual functioning, and severe alcohol use disorder.
With these mental issues, the Malaysian lawyer N. Surendran contended that he was “disoriented” during the time of the event, and “he’s got no real clue what is going to happen to him”.
In essence, the defence lawyer is arguing that his client is of unsound mind, and thereby unable to understand the nature of his actions, tell right from wrong, or understand the circumstances he’s in to suitably defend himself.
After hearing news that a man was going to be executed regardless of his intellectual disability, social activists and naysayers of death penalty were outraged, even protesting outside the Singapore Embassy in Kuala Lumpur in March 2022.
Even well-known figures and organisations like British Billionaire Richard Branson, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, United Nations, and Amnesty International, were vocal about the wrongness of the execution.
Last Appeal Dismissed
By this point, Nagaenthran has all but exhausted any possible legal means to contest his impending execution.
On Tuesday (29 Mar), the Court Appeal dismissed the last application, considering it an abuse of court processes, and baulked against the constitutional challenge, stating that international laws can’t supersede domestic laws.
In his final ruling, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon noted that there was “no admissible evidence showing any decline in the appellant’s mental condition after the commission of the offence”.
It was ultimately ruled that the lawyers’ assertions concerning Nagaenthran’s mental decline were “self-serving” and “not supported by anything at all”.
It might sound harsh, but the three medical reports supporting the mental decline were submitted at the eleventh hour, and they relied on information furnished with observations given by the appellant’s brother and the opinions of Mr Ravi, another lawyer.
Neither of the two were deemed as reliable sources.
Moreover, there is no law in Singapore that considers the deterioration of mental state while on death row as a valid reason to stave off or overturn the death penalty.
Chief Justice Menon also stated that the case built by the defence’s counsel was “baseless and without merit, both as a matter of fact and of law”.
The court also dismissed the request for Nagaenthran to be assessed by an independent panel of psychiatrists.
And thus, all attempts to overturn the original ruling from 2010 have failed.
Nagaenthran Dharmalingam will meet his maker once another date of execution has been decided.
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