Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Secrecy (and other matters) in executions

Here's a report from the BBC on the death penalty in China. The article is accompanied by a photo, the legend of which says, "Executions are usually carried out soon after sentencing." There isn't any support for this statement in the article; maybe the editors just made it up. In any case, under most interpretations of the word "soon", it's not accurate. My guess would be that most death sentences are appealed. That takes some time. Then all death sentences, whether appealed or not, are (once final) subject to a mandatory review by the Supreme People's Court. From the limited information we have, that review seems to take at least six months in most cases, and sometimes more than a year. (See this report.) The Yang Jia case was an indecently hasty exception.

It is true (as far as we know) that once the SPC confirms the sentence, execution follows quickly - usually within just a few days, and sometimes even the same day.For example, Chongqing gang boss Chen Ming was executed on Nov. 26, 2009 - the very day his death sentence was approved by the Supreme People's Court. The sentence itself was imposed, however, in July 2008. (News report here; it's not clear if they are referring to the first-instance trial or the second-instance trial, assuming there was an appeal.)

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