No way out: ‘Cyanide coffee’ murder convict Jessica Wongso exhausts legal options to overturn 20-year sentence

Murder suspect Jessica Kumala Wongso arrives at the Central Jakarta court on October 27, 2016.  / AFP PHOTO / Bay ISMOYO
Murder suspect Jessica Kumala Wongso arrives at the Central Jakarta court on October 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Bay ISMOYO

The case of Jessica Kumala Wongso, who was found guilty of murdering Wayan Mirna Salihin with a cup of Vietnamese coffee spiked with cyanide, is arguably one of the most widely covered court cases in recent Indonesian history (even spawning a distasteful restaurant ad and a coffee label) and is now definitively over with the convict having officially exhausted all of her legal options to overturn the decision.

The Supreme Court rejected Jessica’s plea for a judicial review to overturn her murder conviction and 20-year prison sentence. A judicial review, in which a convict must present new evidence clearing their name, is the last option available for appeal in a criminal case, meaning that Jessica will have to serve out the remainder of her sentence.

On the court’s website, court documents show that Jessica submitted a plea for judicial review on Nov 5, 2018. The plea was rejected on Dec 3, though the documents did not specify exactly what new evidence Jessica presented and why the court thought it was insufficient to meet the requirements for a judicial review.

“As a judge who handled that case I am proud because that means we judges came to the right decision professionally,” former Central Jakarta District Court justice Binsar Gultom, who presided over Jessica’s murder trial, told Kompas on Monday.

Jessica was arrested by the Jakarta Metro Police after being accused of slipping cyanide into Mirna’s Vietnamese iced coffee at Olivier Café in Central Jakarta’s Grand Indonesia mall in January 2016. The case generated huge interest in Indonesia, with crowds packing out the court during the trial and TV networks showing it live, as well as in Australia, where the victim and alleged murderer studied together at a design college.

Her guilty verdict and 20-year prison sentence in October 2016 was controversial due to the judges relying on circumstantial evidence to arrive at their decision.

In March 2017, the Jakarta High Court rejected Jessica’s first appeal and upheld her sentence before the Supreme Court did the same three months later.

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