NAKHON PHANOM – Thailand’s Supreme Court has rejected the request of former teacher, Jomsap Saenmuangkhot for a retrial to clear her name in a fatal hit-and-run case that put her in jail, citing poor supporting evidence.
While the book is now formally closed on the high-profile case, the former teacher may now face more legal trouble ahead. The police, still smarting from the heavy public criticism they received for their handling of the original case, are now deciding whether to pursue charges of filing false information.
The Supreme Court ruling was read out on Friday at the Nakhon Phanom provincial court. It was the first request for a retrial of a criminal case in the country in 34 years.
Jomsap, 55, left the court in tears, saying she was sad but had fought to the end for justice from the system. She said she accepted the ruling and would leave it to the Justice Ministry to decide whether to pursue the issue further. She did not elaborate.
Pol Maj Gen Suwicharn Yankittikul, the Nakhon Phanom police chief, said that if any evidence was proved to have been fabricated to support the retrial petition, legal action would be taken.
In 2013 the Supreme Court sentenced Jomsap, 55, to three years and two months in jail for driving a vehicle that struck and killed a man in 2005. The Court of Appeal had earlier acquitted her, overturning a conviction by the Criminal Court.
She was originally found guilty of driving her pickup truck and striking bicyclist Luea Phorbamrung, a 75-year-old Nakhon Phanom native, in Renu Nakhon district of Nakhon Phanom on March 11, 2005.
Police later identified the vehicle as the Sakhon Nakhon-registered Toyota pickup truck belonging to Jomsap.
Jomsap was freed in 2015 under a royal pardon after serving 18 months in jail. She then moved to seek the retrial, saying she had been a scapegoat. The Justice Ministry supported her in her attempt to prove wrongful conviction and have the judgement overturned.
The retrial request was the first petition of its kind since the promulgation of the criminal case retrial law in 1983.
Jomsap insisted she did not drive the vehicle that hit the old man and the actual vehicle in the case was an Isuzu pickup registered in Mukdahan province. Two men subsequently approached the police on separate occasions to say that they were the drivers responsible.
Two women, aged 51 and 61, stood as her witnesses in court. They said that the actual driver was a man who got out of the truck to look at the dead man before fleeing the scene.
They told the court that they did not recognise the brand of the truck and remembered only the figures “56” from its licence plate.
The Supreme Court said it did not believe the testimony of the newly presented witnesses. It stood firm on the previous evidence and dismissed the retrial request.
By Patanapong Sripiachai