[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Oct 26 00:00:06 CDT 2005
Top court will review all death sentences
China's Supreme Court will no longer permit provincial courts to review
death sentences in order to ensure capital punishment is meted out
meticulously and fairly, Chief Justice Xiao Yang said yesterday.
"The death sentence is the most serious level of penalty for criminals. It
is reserved for felons guilty of the most atrocious crimes," Xiao said at
a legislative hearing on court work.
China still practices capital punishment as a deterrent to preserve social
stability, but "as few executions as possible should be carried out and as
cautiously as possible, in order to avoid wrongful executions," said Xiao,
who is also president of the Supreme People's Court.
Review of the death penalty is a special procedure in Chinese criminal law
to "ensure that death sentences are justified and appropriate."
According to the law, executions must be approved by the Supreme Court
before being carried out. However, to facilitate swift punishment for
criminals captured during the country's 1983 "Strike Hard" anti-crime
drives, an exception was made so that violent felons like murderers could
be put to death with the approval merely of provincial-level higher
Xiao told legislators that the Supreme Court and the country's provincial
courts have exercised their right of review of death sentences submitted
by local courts with care.
Since 2003, the Supreme Court has rejected 7.21 % of death sentences,
ordering a retrial for lack of sufficient evidence, and changed 22.03
percent of the death verdicts to death with reprieval or life
imprisonment, said Xiao, without giving the exact number of such
Meanwhile, provincial courts have thrown out 4.44 % of death sentence
verdicts for lack of sufficient evidence, and revised 38.14 % of the
verdicts to lesser punishments.
But several wrongful death sentences exposed this year have prompted legal
professionals to think twice about the death penalty system. Many of them
have called for the Supreme Court to rescind provincial tribunals' right
A man convicted of murdering his wife in Hubei Province was released after
his "dead" wife emerged. The case prompted a national uproar.
Liu Zuoxiang, a professor with the Law Institute of the China Academy of
Social Sciences, said the major problem with the review system is that
different provincial courts have different criteria for what kind of
felons should be executed, which is bad for the human rights of the
Xiao said that the Supreme Court has also held seminars recently to
analyze wrong judgments to help local courts improve their proficiency.
A Guandong Province court sentenced a former company accountant to death
for embezzling more than 8.4 million yuan (US$1 million), the Nanfang
Metropolis News reported yesterday.
Wu Canqian, 30, then with the state-owned Guangdong Yantang Enterprises Co
in Guangzhou, stole the funds on 49 occasions from May 2002 to September
2004, the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court said in its ruling on
(source: Shanghai Daily)
Courts to be cautious over death sentence
The Supreme People's Court will continue to be cautious in giving death
sentences in an attempt to ensure human rights, Chief Justice Xiao Yang
"Although China still has the death penalty to punish severe criminals, we
will try to execute less people to avoid any unjust cases," Xiao told the
current session of the Standing Committee of the 10th National People's
Congress yesterday in a report.
If criminals can be given a lighter punishment according to the law, or if
the death sentence is not urgent, the Supreme People's Court and high
people's courts of provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions will
commute the original death sentence to death sentence with a reprieve, or
"Judgments that are found to lack sufficient evidence will be submitted
for a new trial," Xiao said.
Among all the death sentences given to the Supreme People's Court for
judicial review since 2003, 22 % were commuted to death penalty with a
reprieve or life imprisonment, according to Xiao, President of the Supreme
Another 7 % of the death sentences that were submitted to the court for
approval were retried.
In the high people's courts in provinces, municipalities and autonomous
regions, 38 % of judgements were commuted, and 4 % retried, according to
The Supreme People's Court authorized death sentences for some crimes to
be given by high people's courts of provinces, municipalities and
autonomous regions in the 1980's.
It is reported that the Supreme People's Court will withdraw this power
next year to better ensure justness and cautiousness of death sentences.
At the NPC Standing Committee session yesterday, top prosecutor Jia
Chunwang told legislators that the Supreme People's Procuratorate is
drafting measures to strengthen examination of evidence legitimacy to
avoid extorting confession by torture.
The move aims to better ensure the rights of suspects, according to Jia.
As the national law supervision authorities, procuratorates fulfil duties
such as arrest authorization, prosecution and investigation into crimes by
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