Deferred Death Penalty a Countermeasure for Some Local Courts
Oriental Outlook (瞭望东方周刊) looks at why some local courts are increasingly handing down death sentences with two-year reprieves (判死缓). Translated by CDT:
“The Public Security Bureau shoulders an enormous pressure. There is not only an elimination system for local bureaus in last place for case solving, but police chiefs whose stations have the lowest case solving rates are also at risk of losing their employment,” said Huayu Law Firm lawyer Wang Jihua to Oriental Outlook. Wang Jihua was formerly a prosecutor in Shangqiu City, Henan Province. When he received Zhao Zuohai’s case in 1999, he found that the evidence had many holes, that the facts were unclear, and that it was sent back twice for review with a request for public security organs to complete more investigation. While the case was being heard, Wang Jihua left his position and became a lawyer.
“Had the Zhao Zuohai case reached gone all the way, the top leaders would have agreed to sue, and I would have had to become the public prosecutor. Even if I thought the facts were unclear or that the evidence was incomplete, in court, I would still have had to say the facts were clear, that the evidence was complete, and that he should be sentenced. Why? “Because you are the country’s prosecutor, and this is your duty.” Moreover, even if the public security authorities weren’t all of one accord, the politics and law committee would still make a decision.” Wang Jihua feels helpless about this.
In his eyes, today’s judicial environment is much better than it was during the strike-hard that occurred over ten years ago. “Death penalties are handed down less often, and more cautiously.”
On January 1, 2007, the Supreme People’s Court took over the authority to review death penalty sentencing. At the end of 2007, the president of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), Xiao Yang, expressed at a National Judges College judicial reform conference that the number of deferred death sentences exceeded the number of immediate death sentences in 2007 for the first time in years. This step forward showed the [effects] of the policy to cautiously hand down death penalties.
“Looking at it now, however, deferred death sentences have become a sort of countermeasure for local courts.” Beijing Yuanhao Law Firm lawyer Duan Pingsheng believes that in unclear cases, local courts may give deferred death sentences in order to avoid SPC review.
After, Wang Jihua served as a lawyer and handled similar cases. “Cases with a clear killer will have immediate executions. But if it’s not clear, [the defendant] should be immediately released. However, a few written decisions have noted that based on the case’s criminal details, situation, and criminal nature, the death penalty should be given. However, given the case’s ‘special circumstances,’ the sentence cannot be immediately implemented. What are these special circumstances?”