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Death penalty upheld for woman convicted of killings

By YANG ZEKUN | China Daily | Updated: 2022-12-01 10:09
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The Jiangxi Provincial High People's Court on Wednesday upheld the death sentence handed down to Lao Rongzhi for her involvement in the deaths of seven people.

The high court heard her appeal in August, nearly a year after the sentence was handed down by the Intermediate People's Court of Nanchang, Jiangxi.

In addition to receiving the death penalty, Lao had her political rights stripped and all of her property confiscated for her role in the crimes, which also included robbery and kidnapping.

The high court said that Lao and her ex-boyfriend, Fa Ziying, intentionally and illegally took the lives of others; used violence or threats for the purpose of gaining illegal possession of others' property; and kidnapped others for the purpose of extorting money or property.

The two deliberately killed seven people, including a man during a home robbery and another they had kidnapped. The circumstances of their crimes were egregious, and their methods were particularly cruel, the high court said, adding that their actions caused great social harm and thus called for severe punishment.

In Lao's appeal, she claimed that Fa manipulated her into participating in the crimes. She denied killing anyone intentionally and that she was merely an accessory. The high court rejected that argument, saying it was not consistent with the facts and evidence that were presented in the original trial.

According to the Criminal Procedure Law and relevant judicial interpretations, when a second instance court tries a death penalty appeal, the collegial panel shall conduct a comprehensive examination of the case files before the trial, which is not limited to the content of the parties' appeal.

"The contents of the review include whether the facts are clear, the evidence is sufficient, the application of the law is correct, the sentencing is appropriate, and the litigation process is in line with the law," said Wang Zhengxun, a law professor at Northwest University of Political Science and Law.

Shi Jinghai, a law professor at Southwest University of Political Science and Law, said that the principal offender need not have directly committed the killing. If the court found that Lao played a major role in the murder, even though she did not commit the crime directly, she would be considered the principal offender.

With Lao's appeal denied, the Jiangxi high court will report her death sentence to the Supreme People's Court for final approval.

According to the Nanchang Intermediate People's Court, Lao, who was born in Jiangxi in 1974 and used to be a primary school teacher, worked with Fa to commit the crimes from 1996 to 1999. She picked targets at entertainment venues, and Fa would attack them.

The two participated in robberies, kidnappings and killings in Nanchang, as well as Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, Changzhou in Jiangsu province and Hefei in Anhui province.

Fa was captured in 1999. He was sentenced to death and executed later that year.

Lao spent about 20 years on the run, using aliases to evade capture until she was caught in Fujian province in 2019. She was charged with the crimes of intentional homicide, robbery and kidnapping in August 2020.

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