CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, November 20, 2006

China: Innocent Man Exonerated, Causes China to Rethink Death Penalty

She Xianglin could have been executed for the murder of his wife.  He was charged with murder after police found an unidentifiable woman's body in a pond some weeks after Mr. She's wife disappeared.  But the judge, who had doubts about his case, sentenced Mr. She to 15 years in prison instead of adding his name to the thousands put to death each year.  He is one of the extraordinarily rare cases in China where a convicted murderer did not receive the death penalty.  Eventually, his wife turned up, alive, and farming pigs. And he was released from prison after 11 years wrongfully served.  Because of Mr. She's case, beginning in January, the Chinese Supreme Court will review every death sentence handed down in China.

From No one knows how many people are executed in China each year. That number is a state secret. However, Amnesty International estimates that at least 1,770 people were executed last year and 3,900 were sentenced to death — more than in the whole of the rest of the world put together. Chinese legal experts say that the actual number may be far higher.

The decision to restore to the Supreme Court the right to review all death sentences was motivated not only by a series of reports in the increasingly courageous Chinese media of miscarriages of justice. Debate about the widespread and arbitrary use of the death penalty has also raged in recent years.  China holds that the death penalty should be used sparingly. However, the number of capital crimes has more than tripled since China promulgated its criminal law in 1980, many of the additions being non-violent or economic crimes such as VAT and insurance fraud. Today nearly 70 crimes qualify as capital offences, ranging from stealing pigs or cattle to hooliganism. More from . . [Michele Berry]

Capital Punishment, Exoneration Innocence Accuracy, International | Permalink

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