China: Prisoner confesses to crime for which another man was executed

A serial killer appealing his death sentence in Hebei province repeated on Tuesday a confession that he committed a rape and murder for which another man was executed almost 20 years ago.

Wang Shujin, a death row prisoner convicted of raping and killing at least four women, repeated his confession during a court hearing in Handan, Hebei province, on Tuesday morning.

Wang made the confession in the hope of clemency, based on the fact that his testimony may clear the name of another man who had been put to death for the crime.

In 1995, 22-year-old Nie Shubin was executed for the rape and murder of a woman identified as Kang in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province.

But when Wang was arrested in 2005, his confessions included a detailed account of what had happened to Kang, sparking speculation among Nie’s family and the public that he had been wrongfully executed.

At Tuesday’s court hearing, prosecutors argued that Wang’s testimony about how he had committed the crime differed significantly from the crime scene inspection report police made at the time, according to a statement Handan People’s Intermediate Court released after the trial.

The statement said prosecutors were not surprised that Wang could recount the details of Kang’s case, since he used to work in a factory near the crime scene and was interrogated by police as a witness while the case was being investigated.

Zhu Aimin, Wang’s lawyer, said the crime scene inspection report provided by the prosecutors is only a copy of the original documents, and as such cannot be used as evidence in court.

Zhu said he will apply to see the original version to check if the documents are authentic.

Zhang Huanzhi, Nie’s mother, was also present at the hearing. She said the victim’s clothes, provided by the prosecutors, were not the same as those that had been presented to them before. The court in Handan resumed the hearing on Tuesday, nearly six years after it first heard Wang’s appeal in 2007.

Wang “has confessed most of his crimes and should receive a lighter penalty”, said Li Shuting, Wang’s lawyer in the first trial.

Gu Yongzhong, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said Nie should now be found not guilty.

“Nie’s innocence is not decided by whether or not the real murderer has been caught. It is decided by whether the evidence can prove his crime,” he said.

“Although the prosecutors in Hebei argued that Wang didn’t kill Kang, Wang’s confession itself has left doubt in Nie’s case. Based on the principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, Nie’s verdict should be reversed.”

The case is not the first judicial verdict that has been challenged in recent years. Zhao Zuohai from Henan province was jailed for 11 years following a wrongful murder conviction. He was only released last year when his alleged victim reappeared.

The Supreme People’s Court has also urged judges to prevent unjust or wrong verdicts in criminal cases, in a bid to improve declining judicial credibility.

Shen Deyong, deputy president of the Supreme People’s Court, said in April that the ruling of a criminal case relates to the fame, property, freedom and even life of a person, as well as social security and stability, so judges have to strictly follow legal procedures and make use of high technology to prevent wrongful verdicts.

“We should prevent wrong verdicts the same way we fight against floods and dreadful monsters. It will not be the end of the world if we release a real criminal, but it will be the end of the world if we execute an innocent citizen,” he said.

Source: China Daily USA, June 26, 2013

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