The country's top procuratorate yesterday confirmed it had issued a guideline to streamline and standardize how prosecutors handle appeals of death sentences - a move to further ensure justice in such cases.
The guideline requires prosecutors across the country to keep detailed records of the entire process of the appeals of those sentenced to death, including the case acceptance and handling, as well as court hearing and verdicts, the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) said.
Prosecutors are required to examine evidence and confessions to make sure they are not collected through illegal means such as forced confessions or threats.
"Any evidence or confession from an illegal means shall be invalid in court," the guideline says.
In addition, it stipulates that the appeal of a death sentence should be handled by at least two prosecutors at the same time, and a higher-level procuratorate should offer guidance if the case involves serious corruption or causes strong public sentiment.
The paper also makes it clear that prosecutors should take a close look at whether the verdict of the first trial was based on sufficient evidence; whether the application of the law was proper; whether the crime was so serious that it deserved an immediate execution; and whether there were any illegal practices in the investigation, prosecution and first trial.
It is the first document of its kind ever issued by the top procuratorate, Fan Chongyi, director of the procedure law research center of China University of Political Science and Law, told China Daily. Fan is also a member of the advisory committee to the SPP.
He said the guideline details the provisions in the Criminal Procedure Law and standardizes the procedure of how prosecutors handle appeals of death sentences.
"It (the guideline) tackles some existing problems in the handling of such cases, such as evidence examination, and it is very practical in use," he said.
According to Chinese law, convicted felons have the right to appeal to a higher-level court if their first trial concludes with a death sentence. If the second trial maintains the verdict, the sentence will be submitted to the Supreme People's Court for final review.
Fan said the latest move of the SPP was part of a campaign in the judicial system to improve justice in cases involving death sentences.
Last September, a regulation from the Supreme People's Court urged all courts to hear the appeals of death sentences in an open courtroom to improve transparency.
And in January, the top court also assumed all powers to review and approve death sentences. Before that, high people's courts at the provincial level were authorized to review certain death sentences.
(China Daily 08/09/2007 page3)