Lawyers seek light sentences for US couple charged with premeditated murder in Indonesia

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BALI, Indonesia — Lawyers for an American couple on trial in Indonesia argued Tuesday that prosecutors improperly charged them with premeditated murder in the death of the woman's mother.

They urged the three-judge panel to give the lightest possible sentences to Heather Mack and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer. They are being tried separately, with the same judges and prosecutors, at Denpasar District Court.

Schaefer, 21, and Mack, 19, both from Chicago, are charged with deliberately murdering Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62, whose badly beaten body was found last August in a suitcase in the trunk of a taxi outside an upscale hotel on Bali island.

Prosecutors have asked the judges to find the defendants guilty of premeditated murder, which carries a maximum penalty of death, but have sought 15- and 18-year jail terms respectively for Mack and Schaefer.

In Mack's trial Tuesday, her lawyer Ary Soenardi argued that short messages cited by the prosecutors as well as court testimonies and the defendants' confessions did not clearly prove that Mack had committed premeditated murder.

"In our opinion, the prosecutors failed to provide clear evidence of the defendant's assistance in the case," Soenardi said. "Therefore, the primary charge of premeditated murder should be ruled out."

He expressed hope that the panel would hand down a "fair and humane verdict."

Schaefer's lawyer, Iswahyudi Edy, asked the judges to consider the situation and condition of the defendant at the time of the incident.

"Premeditated murder could not be proven legally and convincingly," Edy said. "The defendant, therefore, should not be punished as sought by the prosecutors."

Prosecutors insisted last week that their evidence showed the couple deliberately plotted to kill von Wiese-Mack while vacationing on Bali, based on the testimony of witnesses and messages between the defendants.

They argued that Schaefer deliberately brought a metal fruit bowl when he came to the room at the St. Regis resort where Mack and her mother were staying. They said he then used the bowl to strike her, while Mack helped stuff her mother's body in the suitcase by sitting on it to enable Schaefer to close it.

The prosecutors said they decided to be lenient with Mack because she repeatedly expressed remorse and recently gave birth.

Schaefer testified that von Wiese-Mack was angry when she learned about her daughter's pregnancy and tried to strangle him, prompting him to strike her with the bowl.

Presiding Judge Made Suweda adjourned the hearing until next Tuesday, when the judges are to deliver their verdict.

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