The policemen investigating a murderous assault knew they didn’t have enough evidence against their chief suspect, Li Jiuming, to hold up in court. So they decided to do what police here often do, according to Chinese lawyers: torture a confession out of him.
That false confession, presented four years ago to a court in Tangshan, 100 miles east of Beijing, earned Mr. Li, a prison administrator, a death sentence. But even as his lawyer was presenting an appeals judge with testimony that police interrogators had given Li electric shocks, beaten him, forced hot pepper-water up his nose, and made him drink water until it came out his ears, the real culprit was found.
Li was released. But his ordeal, and others like it, prompted China’s Supreme Court last week to assume exclusive authority to review all death sentences, in a move that legal scholars say could reduce abuses in imposing the death penalty and potentially cut the number of people executed in China by as much as one-third. [Full Text]