Public pressure threatens judicial impartiality

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-7-5 0:23:01

The alleged involvement of Li Tianyi, the son of a famous military vocalist, in a gang rape has drawn excessive public attention.

The public has kept a close eye on the investigation of the Li Tianyi case and there are strong public opinions about what the verdict should be. This could prevent abuse of power in the trial.

However, the issue whether the excessive public attention will damage the impartiality of the trial is one example of new challenges facing the judicial system in recent years.

Because Li Tianyi is underage, information about this case shouldn't have been publicized according to the Criminal Procedure Law.

Three of the others involved are also minors, which means the case won't be fully disclosed as other ordinary criminal cases.

So far, many believe the other suspects also have powerful family backgrounds and that the case was tainted with power abuse because it hadn't been submitted for prosecution several months after the crime had been committed.  

Trial procedures of criminal cases involving minors are more considerate than those of adult cases. More complications enter the picture when examining and investigating a gang rape case involving several minors. As long as the investigation process is based on law, public opinion should accept this.

The common spirit of laws worldwide is that punishments for minor criminals are more lenient than those for crimes committed by adults. But currently, public opinion is calling for severe punishments for Li Tianyi due to the status of Li's parents as military singers. Li's case has aroused long-accumulated public anger toward social inequality. Many are venting anger through Li's case.  

Interference by media in judicial cases is a sign of public interference. Cases related to wealthy second generation children or the offspring of officials attract media scrutiny. But the media's involvement, with its obvious ideological preference, is close to condemnation.

We cannot blame the media since such intense emotion, prevailing among the public, is looking for an opportunity to vent itself. This time, it has latched on to the Li Tianyi case.

Gossip indicating that Li Tianyi was spoilt by his parents, and the enormous pressure his lawyer has faced, has nothing to do with a fair trial.

This gang rape case faces the dual aspects of the judicial system and morality. Public opinion has mixed up the two and is using morality to put pressure on judicial matters.

In the US, some trials are closed to media and only hand-drawn images are permitted of trials. But Chinese public opinion is putting too much pressure on judicial openness, creating confusion.

We hope the Li Tianyi case will receive a fair trial.

Meanwhile, it can serve as a good test of isolating trials from public opinion while carrying out the necessary communication.

Posted in: Observer

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