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Friday, December 2, 2016, 18:13

Executed man found not guilty

By Cao Yin in Shenyang

Evidence insufficient, unclear in 1990s Nie case, top court says

Executed man found not guilty

The father and sister of Nie Shubin react after hearing Nie is exonerated in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, Dec 2, 2016. (Photo / VCG)

Justice finally came, though it was 21 years too late.

Nie Shubin , a young man executed in 1995 after being found guilty in a rape and murder case , was declared not guilty by the top court on Friday.

The Supreme People's Court said in its verdict that facts and evidence in Nie's case, which has drawn huge public attention, were unclear and insufficient, so "he should be announced innocent".

It added that the judgment was made in accordance with a basic principle in the Criminal Law: No punishment shall be given in doubtful cases.

"I'm satisfied with the result. I've been expecting today for a long time," said Zhang Huanzhi, Nie's mother, with trembling voice and in tears.

She spent more than two decades trying to clear her son's name.

She heard the announcement at the Second Circuit Court, one of the arms of the Supreme People's Court, in Shenyang, Liaoning province, on Friday morning.

Zhang was also informed in court that she can apply for State compensation within two years. "I'll discuss (the compensation) with my husband," she said.

Xia Daohu, one of the judges for the case, confirmed that the compensation application process had begun. But he did not say how much money a litigant can receive in such a case.

"The compensation will be provided in accordance with the State Compensation Law, and the final amount will consider how many days Nie had been wrongfully detained, as well as the mental damage," Xia said.

Xia also said an accountability investigation of police and judicial officers who were involved has started, but did not elaborate.

Li Shuting, the family's lawyer, said: "Rights of lawyers, including reading legal materials and sharing opinions with the court, were well protected. I'm also happy to end my work with such a result."

Nie, a worker in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, was sentenced to death and executed in 1995 in the rape and murder of a woman the year before. He was 21 when he was executed.

The case first came to the public's attention in 2005, when Wang Shujin was detained for rape and murder in other cases. Wang confessed that he was the actual culprit in Nie's case.

Since then, Nie's case had been reinvestigated. His name is well-known across the country, and any development of the reinvestigation made headlines.

His case has been handled by Hebei Provincial High People's Court and Shandong Provincial High People's Court. Both courts failed to give a final verdict.

On June 15, the top court designated the Second Circuit Court to retry the case.

Ding Hui, president of the law school at Liaoning Normal University, said: "I'm a mother as well. I fully understand Zhang when I saw her crying in the courtroom.

"Meanwhile, I applaud that justice was upheld by the top court. It is so important to fulfill the rule of law in our country."

Mo Hongxian, a law professor at Wuhan University, said the case is a milestone in Chinese criminal law research, adding that the top court highlighted the principle of no punishment for doubtful cases in Nie's case .

"The case could serve as a guide when judges tackle other similar cases," she said.

Both professors said that Nie's case also points to an urgent need to establish a mechanism to avoid wrongful convictions.

"How to ensure evidence is collected legally and verdicts are made without interference is also highly important," Ding said.

Timeline

August 1994: Nie Shubin is arrested by police in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, for allegedly raping and killing a woman.

March 1995: Nie is sentenced to death by Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court for homicide and rape. Nie later appeals to a higher court.

April 27, 1995: Nie is executed after his appeal is rejected by Provincial High People's Court of Hebei.

January 2005: Wang Shujin, a native of Hebei, is detained and charged with murder and rape in many other cases. Wang confesses that he is the culprit in Nie's case. Judicial departments in Hebei begin to reinvestigate Nie's case.

March 2007: Wang is sentenced to death. The death penalty awaits final approval by the Supreme People's Court, the top court.

September 2013: Provincial High People's Court of Hebei announces that there is no evidence suggesting Wang was the culprit in Nie's case.

December, 2014: The top court designates Shandong Provincial High People's Court to reinvestigate Nie's case.

June 15, 2016: The top court asks one of its branch courts, the Second Circuit Court, in Shenyang, Liaoning province, to retry Nie's case.

Dec 2, 2016: Nie is pronounced innocent.

Executed man found not guilty
Cao Yin

Reporter's log: Tears flowed when court read not guilty verdict

I have witnessed many court rulings announced in my past six years of reporting on law. But this time I could clearly hear my heart beating fast as this high-profile case has been part of my career.

Nie Shubin has been a name familiar to almost all legal journalists in China because his case has been widely reported and discussed for more than 10 years.

On Friday, 21 years after being wrongly executed for rape and murder, Nie was finally pardoned on the grounds that the facts were unclear and there was insufficient evidence against him.

Nie's mother, Zhang Huanzhi, who was accompanied by Li Shuting, the family's lawyer, looked calm during the announcement. But she suddenly burst into tears and started to knock on a table in front of her when the court read the word "innocent". Li patted her, as his own tears flowed behind his glasses.

"I have been expecting today for a long time, but my son won't come back again," the mother said.

Looking at the 72-year-old woman, I could no longer hold back my own tears.

At that moment, I forgot I was a journalist. Instead, I tried to feel the excitement and difficulties of this mother who spent two decades working to clear her son's name.

"The hardest part of the appeal was at the very beginning, when various departments ignored me," Zhang said. "But later I witnessed our country's huge progress in the rule of law, and in the end I see justice. It was worth making all these efforts."

Zhang said she would go to her son's grave to comfort her beloved one after returning home to Luquan county in Hebei province.

I felt relieved for her - justice stood on her side. I also admired her. She did all these things to prove her son innocent with great resilience and courage.

Zhang Jiulin, a law school student at Liaoning University who also witnessed the pardon in the court's public gallery, told me that she held her breath when the ruling was about to be announced.

"I've expected that the guilty verdict could be overturned since the national leadership laid emphasis on the rule of law in recent years," Zhang said.

She said she had shared the moment with many of her friends via WeChat, a Chinese social media tool, which has been flooded by the news of Nie's pardon since the ruling was announced on Friday morning.

The lawyer Li also showed his satisfaction. "Justice comes late, but it comes at last," he said.

Winter in the Northeast China is cold, but the long-awaited reversal of Nie's guilty verdict has warmed the nation.

Contact the writer at caoyin@chinadaily.com.cn

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