CrimeThailand

Thitisan ‘Joe Ferrari’ and his officers now facing death penalty

PHOTO: Thitisan "Jo Ferrari" and the 6 officers would be given the death penalty if convicted. (via Shutterstock)

The 7 police officers including Pol Col Thitisan “Joe Ferrari” Utthanaphon, who were arrested after a video leaked of them suffocating a suspect to death during interrogation, will now face full charges as the Attorney-General has given the go-ahead to begin prosecution. The 7 will be tried for multiple charges including premeditated murder by means of torture, coercion, illegal detention, and malfeasance in office under stricter sections of the Penal Code that call for the death penalty.

The case will be officially submitted to the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases by the Attorney-General next week. Of note, the main charge in the suspect’s death has been changed to premeditated murder under Section 289 of the Penal Code, a much stronger charge than Thitisan’s original insistence that he should be charged with assault that led to accidental death. It is also a stronger charge with worse punishment than the charges authorities mentioned last week of “jointly killing by torturing and other cruel means” under Section 288 of the code.

The Commissioner of Central Investigation Bureau outlined a shift from the originally planned charges under Section 288 of the Penal Code, which are punishable by either 15 to 20 years in prison, a life sentence, or the death penalty. The new plan to prosecute under Section 289 instead eliminates any prison sentence option, meaning if any or all of the accused police officers are convicted by the court of the premeditated murder charge, they will receive the death penalty.

The sensational story of the police officer who rose to great wealth despite a 40,000 baht salary and his subordinates going viral from leaked footage of what they considered enhanced interrogation that involved binding the suspect’s hands while layering 6 plastic bags over his head that resulted in the 24 year old man dying has shocked Thailand. People have been outraged by the video, which the officers involved claimed was merely their attempt at getting information about drugs, but some claim was an attempt to solicit a bribe of up to 2 million baht.

The ensuing autopsy that recorded his death, perhaps at the instructions of Thitisan, as a drug overdose (a later full autopsy revealed he had definitely died of suffocation) and the subsequent brief manhunt of the suspects further enraged the public. The search then revealed details of his lavish lifestyle with a massive fleet of high-end luxury cars and sprawling mansion estate shone a spotlight on the systematic corruption that allowed Jo Ferrari to amass such a fortune.

Many are cynical that the 7 police officers would avoid prosecution or receive only a slap on the wrist, and authorities may be feeling the pressure from this and reacting with the harshest prosecution option. As a result, whether or not Thitisan and the officers get convicted will literally be a matter of life or death.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.