An execution was called off just four minutes before a convicted killer was due to face the firing squad - an incident that highlights the judicial branch's determination to prevent the death penalty being handed down arbitrarily, a newspaper reported. The life of Dong Wei, 26, was spared in May after the Beijing Supreme Court cast doubt over the safety of a verdict passed by an intermediate court in Yanan city, Shaanxi province, the Hua Shang Bao reported yesterday. Dong was sentenced to death in December after the Yanan court found him guilty of murder. Prosecutors accused him of killing a man on May 2 last year by hitting him over the head with a brick. However, Dong's father said his son was acting only in self-defence. The Supreme Court has reopened the case and is looking into the details of the trial. The report has come amid calls from the Supreme Court to improve the professional standards of the judiciary. The Supreme Court last year reopened 3,047 cases after receiving 152,557 complaints about verdicts, according to court president Xiao Yang, China's top judge. Judge Xiao last year disciplined 995 judicial branch officials for serious blunders or corruption scandals, mainland reports said earlier. Dong's father hired lawyer Zhu Zhanping to arrange an appeal after the conviction. However, the higher provincial court upheld the intermediate court's verdict and Dong's execution was set for May. Mr Zhu then took the case to the Beijing Supreme Court, where a deputy judge called off the execution.