The Supreme Court yesterday upheld a ruling by the High Court’s Taichung branch, which handed Lin Yu-ju (林于如) the death sentence for the murder of her husband for insurance money, saying the killing was “an abominable offense.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling recommended capital punishment and deprivation of Lin’s civil rights for life.
The owner of a stinky tofu manufacturing and wholesaling business, Lin ran up huge gambling debts after being addicted to playing the lottery. She then took out insurance plans on her mother, husband and mother-in-law, the indictment said.
Lin carried out her plans to murder her mother, mother-in-law and husband, beginning in November 2008, the indictment said.
Lin was convicted of pushing her mother down a flight of stairs at home in November 2008. She claimed NT$5.06 million (then US$160,000) in insurance for her mother’s death.
She was convicted of adding powdered sleeping pills and anti-depressants to her hospitalized mother-in-law’s intravenous drip in May 2009. The mother-in-law’s death brought her a NT$7.43 million insurance payout.
In July 2009, she poisoned her husband, and poisoned him again after he was hospitalized. His death brought her NT$4.75 million.
Police launched an investigation into the deaths after the insurance companies became suspicious.
In Lin’s first trial, the Nantou District Court sentenced her to death plus two additional life terms. The High Court’s Taichung branch later changed the sentence to three life terms.
The Supreme Court later handed back the case of her husband’s murder to the High Court’s Taichung branch for retrial. The high court sentenced Lin to death. It was that ruling that was debated in front of a Supreme Court collegiate bench last month.
In arguing for leniency, Lin’s attorney said she had an IQ of just 57, her medical records showed symptoms of manic-depressive disorder — a claim certified by the Caotun (草屯) Psychiatric Center in Nantou County — and she had no prior record.
The range for average IQ is between 70 and 130.
The Supreme Court said the murders were premeditated and successfully executed, and that Lin knew how to dispose the bodies, actions that undermined her defense that she has a low IQ.
It said it did not agree that she had a spotless record before the murders, saying she had had a record for arson after setting fire to a customer’s shop after the customer bought products from another manufacturer.
Lin’s determination to kill her husband even after the botched first attempt showed that she knew what she was doing, the court ruled.
Her victims were her next of kin and her crimes could not be condoned, the Supreme Court ruling said, adding that her actions showed she was beyond redemption.
The public would not agree with giving such a defendant life imprisonment and neither could we, the court said.
The Supreme Court’s decision makes Lin the second to be sentenced to death this year, and the first woman to be put on death row in the past two decades.
Liu Yi-tsen (劉怡岑), the younger sister of Lin Yu-ju’s (林于如) husband, praised the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying that it showed justice still ruled.
Additional reporting by staff writer