Trial of US couple charged with murder in Indonesia proceeds
Feb. 02, 2015
BALI, Indonesia (AP) — An Indonesian court decided Monday to go ahead with the trials of an American couple charged with murdering the woman's mother while vacationing on the resort island of Bali last year.
The three-judge panel overruled defense arguments that the indictment submitted by prosecutors had inaccuracies and should be annulled. Hearings will resume Wednesday at Denpasar District Court in the provincial capital of Bali.
"The indictment is fully qualified both formally and materially according to the law," said presiding judges Made Suweda. "Therefore, the defense objections are rejected."
The badly beaten body of Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62, was found in a suitcase in the trunk of a taxi outside an upscale hotel in August.
Heather Mack, 19, and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, 21, both from Chicago, are being tried separately with the same judges and prosecutors. They are charged with premeditated murder and face a maximum penalty of death by firing squad if found guilty.
Their lawyers argued earlier that inaccuracies in the indictment could lead to multiple interpretations of the suspects' activities and the crime scene, raising questions of whether other people had entered the victim's room and killed her.
They also objected to the citing of communications between the defendants on cellphones as evidence of premeditated murder, arguing that cellphone communications are prone to manipulation. Prosecutors have alleged that the couple sent text messages about their initial plan to disguise a murder as suicide on the beach.
Both defendants sat quietly as the decision to proceed with the trials was read out by judges. Unlike previous hearings, Schaefer didn't shed tears.
In their indictment, prosecutors said the couple plotted the murder because von Wiese-Mack did not endorse their relationship, and that Mack once suggested that Schaefer hire someone to kill her mother for $50,000 before their visit to Bali.
It said that an argument over the hotel bill made Mack's mother angry and she scolded Schaefer, using a racial slur, and Schaefer then battered her with a fruit bowl handle.
Mack, who is seven months' pregnant, helped stuff her mother's body in the suitcase by sitting on it to enable Schaefer to close it, the indictment said. They then hired a taxi and placed the suitcase in the trunk and told the driver they were going to check out of the hotel and would return, but never did.