FUZHOU - A man was acquitted Friday by the higher people's court of east China's Fujian Province, eight years after being wrongly imprisoned for poisoning four people, two of whom died.
The court overturned grocery shop owner Nian Bin's 2008 conviction for murder, citing insufficient evidence. This is the final ruling after four guilty verdicts and subsequent appeals.
On the evening of July 27, 2006, four people in Pingtan county of Fuzhou, three of them children, fell ill while having supper. Two of the children died later.
Police believed their neighbor Nian Bin, then 30, was responsible because he was not on good terms with the victims' family.
The first verdict came in February, 2008, when the Intermediate People's Court in Fuzhou sentenced Nian to death. Nian appealed, but his fate did not change until October, 2010, when the Supreme People's Court reviewed the sentence. It ruled that "the facts are not clear and the evidence is not sufficient" while ordering local courts to rehear the case.p When reversing the verdict, the higher people's court of Fujian said that the evidence was conflicting and not enough to prove the victims died from rat poison. There was lack of proof where the poison was from, and some doubts could not be explained.
After Nian was freed, he cried when meeting his elder sister and uncle. His parents died during the eight years he was in jail.
In an open letter Nian's lawyers Li Yansheng and Si Weijiang thanked the courts for the rehabilitation. "We hope that this case will help boost the rule of law in China," said the letter.
His sister Nian Jianlan and the lawyers said when Nian was behind bars, he was tortured to extract confession. "We will ask that the torturers be held responsible," she was quoted as saying by the People's Daily. "We will ask for compensation. Money is not enough to compensate for what we lost in these years, and I will never forgive them."
She said the case was not over. "The family of the victims also wants justice," she said. "While they were interrogating my brother, they were letting the real murder walk free."
Zeng Ling, a lawyer with the Qinxian legal firm of Xiamen in Fujian told Xinhua that the acquittal showed the caution of the courts in resorting to the death penalty.
Last August, the Anhui Provincial Higher People's Court set Yu Yingsheng free, 17 years after he was sent to jail for allegedly killing his wife.
In another case, Wang Shujin in north China's Hebei Province admitted to raping and murdering a woman in 1994, a crime for which 21-year-old Nie Shubin was executed in 1995.
The Supreme People's Court started to review all death penalty rulings on Jan. 1, 2007, ending the 24-year power of lower courts to issue death sentences and execute criminals without the approval of the supreme court.