A homicide case in which a taxi driver was brutally murdered almost two decades ago has once again caught wide public attention in China as new evidence collected by the police may lead to a U-turn of the case’s result.
The review of the case may bring a 41-year-old man to justice more than 17 years after the murder, and set free five others who might have been mistakenly convicted of the crimes that they did not commit and have since been held in jail for 17 years.
The suspect, Xiang Shengyuan, accused of intentionally killing a woman taxi driver in Xiaoshan District in the city of Hangzhou, east China’s Zhejiang Province on March 20, 1995, stood trial Wednesday morning at the Intermediate People’s Court of Jiaxing City in Zhejiang.
Xiang pled guilty at court.
Meanwhile, the prosecutor of the case said at court that in accordance with the Chinese Criminal Law, the suspect could receive a lenient punishment since he made a truthful confession of his criminal actions.
Xiang, a citizen in Xiaoshan, was arrested in late December 2012 after the Xiaoshan police found his fingerprint matched the one left at the crime scene and stored in the police database.
After his arrest, Xiang confessed the killing of the taxi driver, Xu Caihua.
According to the People’s Procuratorate of Jiaxing, Xiang got on Xu’s taxi near a bus station in Xiaoshan’s Yaqian Town at about 13:00 on March 20, 1995.
Later, the two started quarreling over fare, and Xiang left the taxi with an excuse and soon returned with a stone.
Minutes later when a squabble broke out between the two again, Xiang struck Xu’s face with the stone and seized her by the throat, choking her to death. After dumping the body along the road, Xiang drove the taxi away.
When he reached a cement plant in northern Xiaoshan, Xiang took the victim’s belongings, including a beeper, earrings, cash and the driver’s license while abandoned the vehicle there.
A forensic investigation later concluded that the victim died of mechanical asphyxia, a condition of severely deficient supply of oxygen to the body that arose from being unable to breathe normally.
According to police records, Xiang was convicted of burglary and sentenced to 20 months in jail in 1991 by the People’s Court of Shaoxing in Zhejiang.
However, with less than five months apart, on August 12, 1995, another taxi driver, Chen Jinjiang, was murdered in Xiaoshan.
The police investigation following the two murders soon narrowed suspects down to five Xiaoshan citizens, all aged around 20.
After trials, the Intermediate People’s Court of Hangzhou sentenced three men to death, one death with a two-year reprieve, and one life imprisonment on July 11, 1997. Except for the man receiving life imprisonment, the other four all appealed against the conviction.
On December 29, 1997, the Provincial High Court of Zhejiang sentenced the four men to death with reprieve in its final judgment.
However, the Provincial High Court of Zhejiang began reviewing the cases on January 4, 2013 to correct the wrong convictions.
According to the provisions of China’s Criminal Procedural Law stipulating that case reviews take less than six months, the result of the review will be released by July 4.
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