Wrongful verdicts targeted

By Liu Sha Source:Global Times Published: 2013-8-12 0:53:01

A newly released judicial interpretation from the Supreme People's Court (SPC) has for the first time specified the procedure for how courts should deal with claims for State compensation for wrongful convictions, in an effort to protect the legal rights of wrongly convicted people and promote judicial justice in China.

The interpretation of the Law on State Compensation, which will take effect on September 1, stipulates that the court is obliged to ensure that those involved in wrongful convictions stay away from the compensation procedure.

It also makes clear that the court should review the entire case, including checking trial and execution documents as well as investigating staff related to the case if necessary, adding that a hearing procedure between compensation claimant and court should be added when the case is "complicated and controversial."

Law experts said the interpretation could ensure the rights for wronged persons to get compensation and maintain procedural justice in a country which has seen a number of misjudged cases partly due to an overemphasis on conviction rates.

"Standardizing the procedure for compensation is very important, as local courts had no guidelines to follow and some may skip making payouts," Hong Daode, a professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times Sunday.

An unidentified official from the SPC said Friday that many local courts had suggested having a compensation procedure since the number of such cases has increased greatly in recent years, Xinhua reported.

A series of wrongful verdicts has drawn a great deal of attention and ignited nationwide discussion over legal reform and judicial justice.

Zhang Gaoping and his nephew Zhang Hui, who were wrongly convicted of rape and murder and jailed for 10 years in Zhejiang Province, were acquitted in March, but the public found it disappointing that the two men only received 2.21 million yuan ($361,000) while asking for 7.02 million yuan in compensation, the Global Times reported earlier.

Shortly after that, the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) in May increased the compensation standard to 182.35 yuan per day for individuals whose personal rights had been infringed upon by the authorities, based on the increase in the average salary of State employees in 2012.

Li Jinxing, a criminal defense lawyer who has represented clients in four such cases since 2011, said that many courts were not independent and many police habitually collect evidence through illegal means.

"It may take only a month for a court to end a case but several months for it to accept further appeals, so there must be more wrongful convictions that we do not know about," he said.

A July commentary by the Procuratorial Daily, which is affiliated to the SPP, said that pressure to solve every case was one of the reasons for wrongful convictions, as it presses investigators, procurators and judges to meet certain quotas. As a result, it called for reforms to the judicial evaluation mechanism.

Liu Bojin, a renowned lawyer who represented Nie Shubin, who was executed after allegedly being wrongly convicted, told the Global Times that under the new interpretation, those who are wrongfully convicted will have the chance to commission a lawyer to argue for the amount of compensation.

"But the problem is that the interpretation failed to make the hearing a necessity in every case, and only 'complicated and controversial' ones, and that will become an excuse for many local courts to skip the hearing part," Liu added.

Jiang Ming'an, a law professor with Peking University, echoed this sentiment.

"Although the many corrections of wrongful convictions in such a short time shows the top authority's determination to hear from the public to improve transparency, what the public want to see now is a better compensation system that can let wrongly jailed people have a normal life and harsher punishments for those who wronged them, otherwise the wrongs will never be truly corrected," Jiang said.

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