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Mother of Four Sentenced to Death for Drug Dealing

September 01, 1987|United Press International

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A New Zealand mother found guilty of heroin trafficking received a mandatory death penalty today, but her son escaped the gallows and was sentenced to 20 years in prison and six strokes of a cane on conviction of a less serious charge.

In handing down the guilty verdict against Lorraine Phyllis Cohen, 44, a mother of four, Penang High Court Judge Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah said there was no proof that she was a "chronic" addict at the time of her arrest. He said the only conclusion he could draw from the trial evidence was that she was a drug trafficker.

Under Malaysia's strict drug laws, a judge must sentence to death anyone found guilty of trafficking half an ounce or more of heroin or morphine, two pounds of opium or seven ounces of cannabis.

Dzaiddin, known as the "hanging judge," said the amount of heroin police discovered on Lorraine Cohen, five ounces, was "too great" for him to believe it was for her own use.

But the judge said he accepted the defense contention that her son, Aaron, 20, was not a trafficker but a "hard-core" addict because he was hospitalized with drug withdrawal symptoms three days after his arrest.

Cohen had begged the judge, who sits without a jury, to let her accept full responsibility for the drugs if it would save her son's life.

She said she had been a drug addict for 29 years and needed between four and eight grams of heroin a day to maintain her habit. She said she had kicked the habit only during the 31 months she had spent in Penang jail awaiting trial.

"Lorraine is disappointed, but she appeared very relieved that her son, at least, was saved from the gallows," said Karpal Singh, the Cohens' lawyer.

Singh said he filed a notice of appeal against both convictions and sentences.

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