On 21 December 1987, 9-year-old school boy Lu Cheng, a student at Tungmen Elementary School in the city of Hsinchu, Taiwan, disappeared after attending a class at a tutorial school. Shortly after Lu Cheng's disappearance, the Lu Family received several telephone calls from the perpetrators demanding ransom in exchange for the return of their son. The Lu Family paid a ransom, but their son Lu Cheng has never been returned to them. This kidnapping case shocked Taiwan society, and the Lu family offered a high reward through the media for information leading to the apprehension of the kidnappers.
More than 9 months after the incident, the Taipei Criminal Police Corps, following up on a report from secret informant Luo Chi-hsun, arrested 12 defendants including Chiou Ho-shun. The police quickly obtained confessions, and the defendants were placed in detention by the public prosecutors. The secret informant, Luo Chi-hsun, was subsequently also named as a co-defendant, arrested, and taken into custody. In an investigation of the case, Wang Ching-feng, who today is Taiwan's Minister of Justice and was then a member of government watchdog agency the Control Yuan, found based on recordings of the police interrogations of the defendants that the police had used torture in the process of obtaining the confessions. In 1994, the Control Yuan impeached police officers involved in the Lu Cheng case, and a number of police officers received final criminal convictions in the matter. In addition to the Lu Cheng case, Chiou Ho-shun and others also confessed under police interrogation to having been the perpetrators behind another unsolved crime committed in November 1987: the murder and dismemberment of a Miaoli County insurance agent named Ms. Ko Hung Yu-lan. Based on confessions by Chiou Ho-shun and the other co-defendants, the prosecutors joined the two cases in one indictment, to be heard at trial in the same proceeding.
We have deep understanding and sympathy for the plight of the victims of these two egregious crimes and for the loss and suffering experienced by their families. At the same time, we are compelled to call attention to the unfair judicial treatment of Chiou Ho-shun and the other defendants who remain in detention. Making scapegoats of innocent persons because of errors in the judicial process does not amount to justice for the victims and their families.
In neither the Lu Cheng case nor the Ko Hung Yu-lan case were the murder weapons or clothes of the victims ever found. To this day, Lu Cheng's body has never been found, nor have the head or limbs of Ko Hung Yu-lan. There is no evidence directly linking any of the defendants to these cases. The charges in the two cases are built entirely on confessions made by the defendants during the investigation stage. It is an undisputed fact that the defendants were tortured by the police. None of the defendants had the assistance of counsel during the investigation. The defendants were held incommunicado from the time of their arrest, and the state of incommunicado was not lifted until the time of their indictment. During the 4-month-long investigation period, they were completely cut off from outside contact. Throughout this investigation period, their minds were doubtless enshrouded by fear from their torture at the hands of the police. Although they were questioned by prosecutors during this period, the questioning took place at the police station, under the watchful eyes of the police, so they were unable to speak out to the prosecutors about being tortured. It was not until their indictment that they were finally able to speak out and tell the court that their confessions had been extracted by police torture.
Despite conclusive proof of criminal torture by the police, the court inexplicably only excluded those parts of the confessions in which the torture was specifically documented by audio recording, and admitted the rest of the confessions obtained during the investigation. The court found all of the defendants guilty and sentenced Chiou Ho-shun to death. However, the confessions admitted by the court contain serious mutual contradictions as well as inconsistencies with other evidence admitted in the case, so their veracity is extremely suspect. After the indictment and the trial of first instance by the District Court, the case was appealed to the High Court and then to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has repeatedly remanded the case back to the High Court, and in the process the case has been heard by several dozen judges, yet none have yet squarely confronted the serious flaws in the confessions. Instead, the courts have consistently skirted these flaws by selectively clipping the investigation transcript, to paste together convictions. But it is precisely because the convictions have been arrived at through a process of clipping and pasting that the entire case has remained full of holes all along. So it is no surprise that the Supreme Court has repeatedly remanded the case for retrial.
Regrettably, although the panel of High Court judges who heard the 10th remand trial examined most of the video and audio transcripts from the interrogations and discovered additional evidence favorable to the defendants, they nevertheless handed down yet another conviction on 13 April 2009, and sentenced Chiou Ho-shun to death and Lin Kun-ming and Wu Shu-chen to prison terms of 17 years and 11 years respectively. The findings of fact in the 10th remand trial judgment remain almost identical to the findings of fact in the 9th remand trial judgment that was overturned and remanded by the Supreme Court.
This case is the longest-running undecided case with defendants in detention in Taiwan's judicial history. The remaining defendants have been kept in detention since the time they were successively arrested in September 1988. When the 10th remand trial began, four defendants remained on trial: Chiou Ho-shun, Lin Kun-ming, Wu Shu-chen, and Wu Chin-heng. Today, Chiou Ho-shun and Lin Kun-ming are still in detention, now for more than 21 years. Wu Chin-heng died before the conclusion of the 10th remand trial, without resolution of the charges brought against him. The other eight of the original defendants, prior to the 10th remand trial, had successively been sentenced to prison for various terms ranging from 10 to 16 years, and waived their right of appeal because they had already nearly served out their sentences based on their cumulative time in detention at the time the judgments were handed down, ensuring their release in the near future. (Under Taiwan law, time spent in detention can be offset against prison sentence time.) But in their written statements waiving their appeals, all of the defendants asserted their innocence, and stated that they were waiving appeal only because they were weary of the protracted litigation. After their release from prison, all have repeatedly and to this day protested that they were wrongly convicted, and subsequently have steadfastly asserted their innocence in court appearances in witness roles.