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Man exonerated after 22 years behind bars

By CAO YIN | China Daily | Updated: 2022-12-01 10:10
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A man from Henan province who spent more than 22 years in prison for intentional homicide was exonerated on Wednesday after a court overturned his conviction.

The Henan High People's Court said a lower court erred in convicting Xie Zhehai, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2000 for killing a woman four years prior, and found the 51-year-old not guilty because the evidence presented during the original trial was insufficient.

Xie, a native of Taikang county in Henan's Zhoukou city, had his sentence commuted in 2018. Before that, he spent 22 years and four months in prison, using the bulk of that time appealing his sentence.

According to the Criminal Law, life sentences can be commuted if an inmate abides by prison rules and exhibits good conduct, but the duration of the prison term cannot be less than 13 years.

These days, Xie is doing odd jobs in Henan to make a living.

Qu Zhenhong, Xie's lawyer, said his client was excited when he received word of the ruling.

"No fingerprints, footprints or blood from my client were found at the crime scene," Qu told China Daily. "Simply put, no physical evidence could prove he did the killing."

Qu said Xie will apply for State compensation for the wrongful detention.

Xie's troubles began on May 30,1996, when a woman surnamed Wang, also from Taikang, was killed on her way home after attending a show at a theater. When police found her body, they reported that she had been beaten, with injuries to her head, legs and chest. It was later determined that she died from the head injury.

Local police named Xie, then 25, a suspect after discovering he had been out with friends around the theater that night. A few days later, he was detained.

In February 2000, Zhoukou Intermediate People's Court sentenced him to life in prison for killing Wang.

Xie appealed to the Henan high court, but it upheld the original ruling in June of that year.

He continued in vain to appeal during his imprisonment, but he ramped up his efforts upon his release in September 2018 after the commutation of his sentence.

In February 2019, he appealed to the high court once more, but the court again rejected him six months later. Xie then appealed to the Supreme People's Court, China's top court, as well as the Henan Provincial People's Procuratorate.

On Sept 22, 2020, the Henan court decided to grant him a retrial, which was eventually held on Nov 24 this year. The court handed down its new ruling just six days later.

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