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18 years later, 5 acquitted of taxi slayings | Updated: 2013-07-02 20:28

Eighteen years after five men were convicted of robbing and killing two taxi drivers in Hangzhou, the Zhejiang High People's Court acquitted all five on Tuesday based upon fingerprint evidence that surfaced in 2011.

The separate murders of the two taxi drivers occurred on March 20 and Aug 12, 1995, in the Xiaoshan district of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

After their arrests, four of the five - Chen Jianyang, Tian Weidong, Wang Jianping and Zhou Youping - were sentenced to death with the possibility of a reprieve in December 1997. Tian Xiaoping was sentenced to life in prison.

The five would still be facing life in prison or death had it not been for a major internal crackdown by the Hangzhou police two years ago. Part of the crackdown included reviewing fingerprints for every person in the city with a criminal record. That review uncovered a fingerprint left at the site of the 1995 robbery that belonged to Xiang Shengyuan. Police found that Xiang had committed one of the murders.

The court filed a review of of the group's cases on Jan 4 and retried the case on June 25.

“There is no proof, crime tools, loot or fingerprints to show the five men were involved in the other case either,” said Zhu Jueming, the lawyer for Tian Xiaoping, on June 25 after the court hearing.

All five said they were tortured into confessing the killings. The Zhejiang High People's Court sentenced Xiang Yuansheng to death with a two-year reprieve on June 27.

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