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Appeals on death penalty in open court
By Ling Hu (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-09 06:03

To meet these requirements, the Supreme Court has allowed for a grace period of six months before introducing the mandatory open session, according to the source.

But some high courts have already introduced open sessions for all appeals in death penalty cases, the source told Xinhua, without elaborating.

The Criminal Procedure Law requires intermediate courts (city-level) to hear first-instance cases that could lead to death penalty, and high courts (provincial-level) to hear in the second instance if appeals are made.

While second-instance hearings are final in most cases, the law specially prescribes a review process by the Supreme Court for every death sentence as a last measure to avoid wrongful execution.

The power of review in certain cases of violence, such as homicide and arson, was relinquished to higher courts under special legislation in the early 1980s amid rising serious crimes.

But the Supreme Court is considering taking back that power, a proposal that has won both acclaim and some misgivings over the daunting prospect of handling death sentences in a country of 1.3 billion people.

"If the quality of first- and second-instance hearings can be ensured, it will reduce the workload in the review procedure," said Zhou Daoluan, a professor at the National Judges College.

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