2009-09-23 Taipei Times
JUSTICE SERVED?: The case, which has bounced between courts for two decades, has been panned for flaws including the submission of coerced confessions as evidence
By Celia Llopis-Jepsen
The defendant sentenced to death 11 times in Taiwan’s longest ongoing criminal case has no hope that his newest retrial will be any different, his lawyer said yesterday on the opening day of the trial at the Taiwan High Court.
“Chiou Ho-shun [邱和順] lost hope long ago,” lawyer Stephen Lee (李勝雄), who has represented Chiou at all 11 retrials, said in an interview.
This is the 12th time the Taipei branch of the Taiwan High Court hears the case, which has been roundly condemned by the Judicial Reform Foundation and strongly criticized by Amnesty International for a series of flaws — most notably the submission of coerced confessions as evidence and the lack of forensic evidence linking the defendants to the crimes.
At the opening hearing yesterday, the presiding judge said the 21-year-old case had been tried so many times that the details should be clear by now. He said he had hope the court would bring a “speedy” conclusion to the case, adding that the court’s duty was “of course, also to be fair.”
Chiou became upset and raised his voice as he gave a brief statement to the court calling for justice, whereupon the judge asked him to calm down and repeated that the trial would be speedy and fair.
Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific regional office in Hong Kong released a statement on Monday calling for a fair trial and urging the High Court to heed flaws in the case cited by the Supreme Court last month when it ordered this latest retrial.
Those flaws included the lack of forensic evidence.
“As of today, no material evidence such as the murder weapon ... [has] been found,” Amnesty said, calling on the court to honor the presumption of innocence.
Amnesty also criticized previous trials for including confessions extracted through torture in the rulings.
Chiou and two co-defendants are charged in a case that combines two separate murders, originally with 12 defendants. Chiou stands accused in the presumed murder of 10-year-old Lu Cheng (陸正), who was kidnapped in Hsinchu in 1987 but whose body was never found, and the murder of Ko Hung Yu-lan (柯洪玉蘭), an insurance agent. Lin Kun-ming (林坤明) is also accused in both murders, while the third defendant, Wu Shu-chen (吳淑貞), is accused in the Lu murder.
Of the other original defendants, one died in prison, while the rest lost hope during their trials of any acquittal and chose to begin serving their prison sentences rather than continue appealing.
At the 10th retrial, Lin and Wu were sentenced to 17 and 11 years respectively, while Chiou again received the death penalty.
“Every time, I hope that this time the retrial will be different. All the lawyers involved in the case believe these people are innocent, otherwise they wouldn’t have gotten involved,” Lee said.
Chiou and Lin have been detained throughout their successive trials, while Wu was freed and lives at home although not acquitted.
“They keep finding her guilty, yet they released her without bail. It is a very strange [action on the part of the court],” Lee said.
In the 1990s, allegations of grievous faults in the case led then-prosecutor Wang Ching-feng (王清峰), now minister of justice, to investigate. After evidence emerged that the defendants had been tortured into confessing, the Control Yuan in 1994 impeached the police officers implicated.
In 2003, police also admitted that a man sentenced to death in a separate criminal case had confessed to Lu’s murder before his execution.
At the last High Court trial, a team of lawyers from the nonprofit Legal Aid Foundation’s Taipei and Banciao branches joined the defense counsel and raised several issues, including an alibi indicating that Chiou and his codefendants were not in Hsinchu at the time of Lu’s kidnapping.
The court nevertheless upheld the convictions on April 13. The case then went before the Supreme Court, which ordered a retrial on Aug. 6.
In a joint statement with other civic groups on Monday, the Judicial Reform Foundation said: “The key issue is this ... Despite the lack of evidence, the judges are not willing to [honor] the most basic of judicial principles: the presumption of innocence.”