Appeals on death penalty in open court
By Ling Hu (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-09 06:03
All death-sentence appeals will be heard in open court from next year, the
Supreme People's Court has announced a move experts say would raise transparency
and deliver full justice in cases involving capital punishment.
In a notice issued to provincial-level high courts on Wednesday, the nation's
top judicial organ ordered them to have open sessions for hearing defendants'
appeals in death-penalty cases concerning "major factual or evidential
controversies" from January 1. All death penalty appeals must be heard in open
session from July 1, 2006.
Judges in East
China's Anhui Provinces receive profession tests on November 12,
"Open sessions are important procedural guarantees for ensuring justice,"
Xinhua News Agency quoted an unidentified senior Supreme Court official as
The Criminal Procedure Law requires courts to hear in open session all
appeals moved by the prosecutors in death-penalty cases. As to appeals by the
defendants, however, the law says the court should, "in principle," hold an open
session but documentary review would suffice if the facts in a case are clear.
"When it comes to reality, documentary reviews have become the preferred
option of some high courts and open sessions an exception and that defeats the
purpose of the law," said Chen Weidong, a law professor at Renmin University of
The media has exposed several instances of miscarriage of justice in recent
years, which has led to criticism of the courts' lack of caution in pronouncing
the ultimate punishment.
Xinhua quoted the Supreme Court source as saying it has to take a pragmatic
approach in ordering open trials in appeals, which is why provincial courts have
up to July 1 for following the procedure.
A collegial bench of three to five judges, one or two clerks and several
sergeants-at-arms are required by law in hearing second instances of
The second trial should be held at the venue of the
first, or where the alleged crime was committed; and prosecutors, defendants,
defence lawyers and key witnesses have to be present.