Different yardsticks for applying the death penalty have led to "judicial
Zhang Jun, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, acknowledged
yesterday that uneven standards applied during mandatory second-instance trials
by provincial high courts in cases involving the death penalty have led to
problems during the review by the highest court.
Supreme People's Court will gradually unify standards for penalties for similar
categories of criminal cases across the country," Zhang told a Beijing work
conference attended by high court presidents.
Ni Shouming, the apex court's spokesman, told China Daily that different
penalty criteria exist because of complex and complicated local conditions in
the huge country, but are mainly for economic and drug-trafficking crimes.
For instance, a drug trafficker in Yunnan Province can be given capital
punishment if the case involves 300 grams of drugs or more, while in neighboring
Guizhou Province, 150 grams can attract the death penalty.
Ni said unified guidelines for pronouncing the death penalty in four
categories of crimes - murder, robbery, drugs and intentional injury, which
usually draw the largest number of death sentences - will be released within the
The move will be another major milestone in the reform of the judicial system
after the Supreme People's Court took back the power to review and ratify all
death sentences starting from January 1 this year.
In the early 1980s, the highest court began to grant provincial courts the
authority to pronounce death sentences amid rising crime; but the practice has
been widely criticized in recent years, especially after reports of miscarriage
Zhang said the review has reduced the number of death sentences in China, and
"human rights protection is constantly improving".
He did not provide the number.
Last month, Beijing No 1 and No 2 intermediate people's courts said the
number of death sentences in first trials resulting in immediate execution had
dropped 10 percent year-on-year in the first five months of this year.
The Heilongjiang High People's Court is the first in the country to detail 13
circumstances for reference in dealing with cases of death penalty with a
reprieve, in line with the principle "capital punishment should be reserved for
only an extremely small number of serious offenders".
A total of 14 people in the province were given death penalty with a reprieve
this year after they had been sentenced to death resulting in immediate
execution in first trials.
Nan Ying, president of the court, said yesterday that no litigants sought
appeals because they were satisfied with proceedings.
During the first five months of this year, 342,854
people were convicted by courts at all levels across the country, and 56,056
received sentences longer than five years. The figure includes life terms and