SHENZHEN: The Intermediate People's Court of Dongguan in Guangdong Province
sparked an intense nationwide debate recently, when it allowed a man to
effectively buy himself a lighter sentence.
The judge revised its initial death penalty verdict to one of stay of
execution, after the defendant, a man surnamed Wang, said he was willing to pay
the victim's family 50,000 yuan ($6,500) in compensation.
Wang and two accomplices killed a man during a robbery in November 2005. The
victim was the family's sole breadwinner, supporting his 80-year-old mother and
young daughter. With the family facing a bleak financial future, the court
After several rounds of negotiations a civil compensation package was agreed.
The plaintiff was satisfied with the result and the accused confessed his crime
and expressed his intent to change his ways
The court said the positive attitude of the accused plus his payment of
compensation had won him at least partial forgiveness from the victim's family.
It was on this basis that the judge downgraded the sentence, in accordance with
"Normally in criminal cases, especially in those where people are killed,
family members don't get a penny of compensation. It's a fact. In a more humane
way, our court tried to help solve the financial problems of victims' family and
dissolve the enmity between the offenders and the victims.
"We have strict principles in handling these cases. First, the accused must
admit guilt and offer economic compensation. Second, the judge must solicit the
opinions of the victims or their family members. Only if they agree to accept
the compensation and forgive the accused to some extent can the mediation
continue. Third, it depends on the severity of the criminal behaviour of the
Liang Cong, president of the First Criminal Court of Dongguan Intermediate
"The court's practices conform to the latest call from the Supreme People's
Court to 'hand out fewer death penalties and do so prudently'.
"The criminal admitted his guilt in the form of compensation; the law could
show some tolerance in return. The criminal tried to make up for the family's
loss with compensation, which could alleviate the social instability or
"If a criminal is repentant and their behaviour does not merit execution, why
is it necessary to takie a life?"
Jiang Qinghan, a lawyer with the Shanghai Guangmao Law Firm
"The fate of criminals seems now to be determined by the depth of their
"The seriousness of law has been destroyed, which further misleads the
public's understanding of justice."
Le Lan, a teacher with the Southwest University for Nationalities
"This is an insult to the law. Can money now buy a life? What can't it buy?
"Anyone facing the death penalty would cry for forgiveness and would be
willing to pay compensation to save their own life. So how can we ever know that
what the criminal says is true?
Xu Shu, an employee with Shenzhen Huayi Plant Co
(China Daily 06/01/2007 page5)