Rurik Jutting's lawyers do not deny that he killed two women, but blame it on drugs and narcissism
In their final statement before a Hong Kong court on Friday, lawyers representing the 31-year-old British former banker Rurik Jutting attempted one last time to persuade the jury that Jutting suffered from long-standing “abnormalities of the mind” that reached a crescendo when he killed two women in his luxury apartment in October 2014.
Two years have passed since Jutting, once a promising senior banker with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, tortured and murdered 23-year-old Sumarti Ningsih and 26-year-old Seneng Mujiasih over the course of a week. The trial, which concluded its second week on Friday, has centered largely on evidence produced by Jutting himself during that week: rambling narratives he filmed on his iPhone prior to and after killing Sumarti and Seneng, in which he described his diet of cocaine and alcohol, his sadistic sexual fantasies, and his gradual mental deterioration.
Jutting has pleaded not guilty to the twin charges of murder but guilty to manslaughter on grounds of “diminished responsibility,” with his defense citing the influence of narcissistic personality disorder, cocaine-and-alcohol-use disorders, and sexual-sadism disorder.
Speaking on Friday morning, Tim Owen, a prominent legal barrister representing Jutting, personally apologized to the members of the jury for their having to sit through hours of gruesome evidence in a case where there is seemingly little dispute of guilt.
“You have performed your task with strength,” he said. “I suspect you must have wondered what it is we have to decide? It must be totally obvious what the outcome will be.”
Over the next hour, however, he returned to the thorough psychological narrative of Jutting’s life that has been constructed by both expert psychiatrists and Jutting’s own prerecorded testimony over the course of the trial. Here is a man, he argued, with both extremely high intelligence and pathological narcissism who was ultimately destroyed by professional pressures and the substance abuse those pressures drove him to.
“A young man earning several million Hong Kong dollars a year had become a bloated, unshaven, permanently intoxicated, isolated and depraved drug and alcohol addict whose mind was permanently obsessive about sadistic sexual fantasies,” he said.
The defense has been forthright about Jutting’s reprehensible actions throughout the trial — they accept that he killed Seneng and Sumarti, both from Indonesia, and have returned repeatedly to his penchant for cocaine, prostitutes and violent pornography as evidence of his mental decay — but maintain, as Owen did on Friday morning, that the case is being heard in “a court of law, not a court of morals.” They have accordingly turned to the notion of “diminished responsibility” in an attempt to reduce Jutting’s sentence. The concept of diminished responsibility, Owen explained, was introduced into British law in the 1950s to accommodate “the current understanding of how the human mind works” as “an acknowledgment that not all cases of killing are the same.”
“The verdict of manslaughter therefore is not a soft option and doesn’t amount to saying that what he did wasn’t all that bad, or that he deserves sympathy and understanding,” Owen implored the jury. “I am not asking you for your sympathy for Rurik Jutting. I am not asking you to feel sorry for him. I am asking you to examine the evidence … and remain truthful to your oaths and return verdicts in accordance with the evidence.”
The defense’s closing statement followed the prosecution’s, in which barrister John Reading emphasized Jutting’s apparent salience in the videos he recorded before and after the killings as evidence that the defendant was grounded and calculated in his actions in late October 2014. Jutting’s cocaine use that week, Reading said, was an attempt at “Dutch courage” before acting on his impulses.
“There is evidence that Miss Ningsih was killed because she would be able to recognize the man who inflicted such terrible torture on her,” Reading told the jury. “Miss Mujiasih was killed because she did not obey him and he lost his temper.”
Friday’s statements mark the beginning of the end of a trial that has gripped the public in Hong Kong, the U.K. and elsewhere. On Friday, the public and press galleries in the courtroom at Hong Kong’s High Court were past capacity, with many people standing in the doorway to witness the procedures.
“The nature of the case is so terrible, but at the same time, one can’t really look away,” one 28-year-old Australian tourist, who was spending his vacation in Hong Kong at the trial, told TIME last week.
The jury is expected to be dismissed to decide its verdict early next week, after presiding Judge Michael Stuart-Moore addresses them one last time.