THERE was applause in the Central Jakarta District Court Thursday when judges sentenced Australian permanent resident Jessica Kumala Wongso to 20 years’ jail for killing her friend with cyanide-laced coffee, drawing the curtains on a dramatic murder trial that gripped the nation.
But Jessica, who according to reports appeared indignant when judgment was delivered, ignored the crowd to declare before the court that the decision was unacceptable.
“I don’t accept this verdict because this is unfair and one-sided,” the 27-year-old insisted, according to Jakarta Post.
The local daily said when it became increasingly clear the judgment was not in her favour, Jessica darted glances to her lead counsel Otto Hasibuan.
— Rappler Indonesia (@RapplerID) October 27, 2016
It said the verdict mostly recited lines from prosecutors’ demands, and said nothing about the accused’s defense statement. It also described Jessica as a disturbed girl who fled Australia to escape her problems there, only to channel her anger onto her friend Wayan Mirna Salihin.
When judgment was delivered, Otto expressed disappointment to reporters.
“This verdict is a death knell for our judicial system,” he was quoted saying, adding that he would file an appeal to the decision.
As Jessica was led away from the courtroom, Mirna’s relatives who had gathered in droves, told the media how happy they were with the verdict.
Mirna’s sister Sandy when accosted by reporters for her response, said: “I am tired but finally I am very happy with this verdict.”
Mirna’s widower Arif Soemarko reportedly expressed mixed feelings about the decision, pointing out that nothing, not even a guilty verdict would bring his wife back.
“There is no way I’ll forgive her. She killed my wife and has shown no remorse,” he was quoted saying.
Mirna died on Jan 6 this year after drinking Vietnamese iced coffee that Jessica reportedly bought for her at an upmarket café in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia.
According to the claim against Jessica, she carried out the alleged murder after Wayan advised her to leave her then boyfriend, an Australian.
During trial, it was revealed that Jessica had made several attempts to harm herself. Her former boss also reportedly claimed that Jessica had “two personalities” and that at one point in October last year, she complained about not being allowed to go home after she was hospitalized for a self-harm attempt.
Jessica, however, has denied these charges and the main charge that she had poisoned her friend, with whom she studied with during their stint at the Billy Blue College of Design in Sydney.
Premeditated murder is punishable by death penalty in Indonesia. Local authorities, however, in return for Australia’s assistance in the investigation, have given their assurance that Jessica would not face capital punishment for the then-alleged crime.
The case has received widespread attention in Indonesia, with stations often broadcasting trial sessions live on local television.
Outside the Jakarta court Thursday morning, crowds began forming queues from before dawn, hoping to get seats inside to watch the verdict. According to BBC, some in the crowd had travelled from other islands just to attend the case.
Those who missed out on the limited seats, resorted to watching the events from monitors outside. About 500 riot police were deployed to monitor the crowd. Camera and video crews, along with hordes of journalists turned the court compound into a media circus, with mini TV studios set up outside, ready to broadcast the verdict live.