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Murder retrial may overturn convictions

By Zhang Yi | China Daily | Updated: 2016-12-02 07:25

Four men who claim they were wrongfully jailed for murder had their case retried at the Jiangxi Higher People's Court.

Zhang Weiyu, the lawyer representing Fang Chunping, who has been serving his sentence since 2006, said he is optimistic about the previous ruling being overturned.

"There is insufficient evidence for the original verdict regarding the four men. In addition, a man suspected of being the real murderer has been caught," Zhang told China Daily.

The court heard the case on Wednesday, according to a statement on its website. The trial was a closed-door affair as the case involves individual privacy, it said.

The four proclaimed their innocence.

No verdict was handed down, but Zhang expected a ruling would be made by the end of this month.

Fang and three others were sentenced to death on Nov 18, 2004, by the Intermediate People's Court in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, in connection with the murder of a man and a woman who had been raped before being killed.

The sentences were reduced to death penalties with a two-year reprieve by the Jiangxi Higher People's Court on May 31, 2006, after an appeal. In China, such a sentence will be reduced to life in prison if the prisoner behaves well over the two years.

The original ruling cited a police investigation as saying that the four had confessed to the crime, but the men later said they were tortured into confessing and denied it, according to Chinese media reports.

However, in late 2011, local villager Fang Linzai, who was apprehended for kidnapping a woman, confessed to police that he was the one who committed the 2004 murder, Beijing Times reported.

The families of the four persisted in appealing the case, and the Jiangxi Higher People's Court decided on July 31 last year to retry it.

The most-recent major overturning of a wrongful conviction was the announcement in 2014 of the innocence of Hugjiltu, 18, who was wrongfully convicted and executed in 1996 for rape and murder. His parents received State compensation totaling 2.05 million yuan ($300,000) in January last year.

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