Report Vows Tighter Death Penalty Procedures

A document released on Monday by China’s State Council Information Office titled The National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2012-2015) promises that review of all death penalty cases will be open to the public. From The Global Times:

The review of death penalty should include the questioning of the defendant, and listening to the opinions of his or her attorney if the attorney so demands, the action plan said.

Legal supervision by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate over the review of death penalty will be strengthened, the plan said, adding that the Supreme People’s Court will publicize typical cases to clarify the norms of application of death penalty.

The action plan said China will continue to push forward standardized measurement of penalty, and the people’s procuratorates will make suggestions on penalty measurement to the people’s courts when handling criminal cases.

The discretion in penalty measurement will be institutionalized. Guidelines on penalty measurement by the people’s courts will be worked out, so will regulations of the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Ministry of Public Security on standardizing procedures of penalty measurement to guarantee openness and fairness in penalty measurement, it said.

The director of research for the Supreme People’s Court told The China Daily that tighter court procedures had already helped reduce the percentage of death penalty verdicts overturned, from 10 percent in 2010 to 7 percent last year:

“Courts have mastered uniform policy, including procedural and evidence norms, for cases in which the death penalty could be a possibility,” Hu said.

Consequently, the number of death sentences overturned due, for example, to mistakes in gathering evidence were significantly lower, he said.

Sentences that were overturned were mostly due to procedural flaws, inappropriate sentences or crimes related to finance.

The China Daily piece also included the below diagram outlining the steps in the judicial review process:

See also CDT coverage of Wu Ying, a Zhejiang billionaire entrepreneur whose death sentence for fraudulent fundraising was rejected by the Supreme People’s Court and sent back to Zhejiang’s high court for resentencing.