Top court upholds four death sentences for murder

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2007, 12:00am

The Supreme People's Court has approved four of the death sentences it has reviewed since regaining the final say in capital punishment cases at the start of the year, Xinhua reported yesterday.

The four cases involved murders in the past two years, Xinhua reported, and involved Yu Maoge, who killed a taxi driver in Shanghai in November 2005, Zhao Guiyong, who kidnapped and killed a 10-year-old boy last summer, Liu Shilin sentenced to death for rape and murder, and Li Shumu, who received the death penalty for murder and arson.

The Supreme People's Court had sent some death penalty cases back to lower courts for reconsideration on the grounds of lack of evidence, Xinhua quoted an unnamed judge as saying, but did not give details of any such cases.

It did not say how many death sentences the top court had reviewed, nor whether it would, from now on, make public the penalties it had reviewed and approved.

In his report to the just-concluded annual session of the National People's Congress, Supreme People's Court president Xiao Yang urged provincial judges to follow the new procedure for capital punishment cases closely and hand out death penalties carefully. However, Mr Xiao also told the judges they should still sentence serious criminals to death if their crimes justified the punishment.

Provincial courts had been entitled to hand down death sentences and conduct executions for more than two decades until the Supreme People's Court decided last year to take back the right to review all death penalties.

Under the new procedure, criminals sentenced to death must not be executed without the Supreme People's Court's approval. Once a verdict was approved, the sentence would be carried out within seven days of local courts receiving notice from the Supreme People's Court, Xinhua said.

The procedural change, considered the mainland's most significant legal reform in the past two decades, aims to reduce miscarriages of justice and bring down the number of executions in China, which accounts for almost half of the world's total.

Mainland authorities have kept the number of people it executes a closely guarded secret. Amnesty International has reported they executed at least 1,770 people in 2005.