Last updated: August 2011
The Case of Chiou Ho-shun (邱和順)
Confession of an accused not extracted by violence, threat, inducement, fraud, exhausting interrogation, unlawful detention or other improper means … may be admitted as evidence.
~Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 156
Significance: Taiwan’s longest-running criminal case: The defendant is faced with execution after 24 years in custody and 12 trials.
Summary: Chiou (along with 11 codefendants) was arrested in 1988 and held incommunicado for four months. During these months he was repeatedly interrogated and confessed, a confession he later retracted claiming that he was tortured. In 1993, a Control Yuan investigation unearthed tapes of interrogation sessions, and concluded that police had used torture. A number of police officers were impeached, and later convicted by criminal court. Despite this and lack of material evidence, the case dragged on for another 18 years until now.
Details: On Dec. 21, 1987, a nine-year-old boy named Lu Cheng disappeared in Hsinchu while walking home from school. Lu’s family began receiving calls from the kidnapper the same day. They negotiated and paid a ransom, but their son was never recovered.
Nine months later, police received a tip from an informant, apparently offered to secure reward money. Based on that tip,12 people were arrested, Chiou among them.
Police held the defendants incommunicado for four months, during which time they were subjected to torture and confessed to kidnapping and killing Lu. They also confessed to another unsolved crime that occurred in November 1987, the murder and dismemberment of a female insurance agent, Ko Hung Yu-lan.
Prosecutors combined the cases and charged the defendants with both murders. The defendants then retracted their confessions and said they had been tortured.
In the 1990s, an investigation by the Control Yuan uncovered taped interrogation sessions that confirmed the defendants’ claims of torture. The police involved were impeached and later convicted in criminal court.
The defendants’ confessions were not excluded as court evidence, however. Instead, only those sections of the tapes with clear evidence of torture were excluded.
In 2003, police revealed that Hu Kuan-pao, a death row inmate sentenced for a series of kidnappings, confessed to the Lu murder just before his execution. His claim was not investigated.
Material evidence: Fingerprints were found on a note from Lu’s kidnapper, but these did not match the defendants and were never identified. Lu’s body was never found and only parts of Ko Hung’s body were found. No murder weapons were found in either murder. The police seized a bag, rope and knife from Chiou’s home and said these had been used in the crimes, but no forensic tests linked them to either murder.
The kidnapper’s voice in the Lu case was recorded over the phone, and the prosecution said this voice matched one of the defendants, yet the recording was never produced in court and its whereabouts are unknown. The prosecution submitted only select excerpts of a graphic voice analysis. The method of this analysis and the technology used did not comply with the Ministry of Justice’s procedures for voice analysis. Moreover, when the defense asked to see the complete analysis, prosecutors said they no longer have it and that only nine photocopies of excerpts remain, along with two reports on the analysis.
Current status of the case: Of the original 12 defendants, only Chiou and two others ( Lin Kun-ming and Wu Shu—zhen) were still undergoing trials and appeals as of August 2011. Of these, Chiou is the only one who is faced with the death penalty. On May 12, their 11th trial at the High Court, Lin was sentenced to 17 years and Wu to 10. Chiou, again, was sentenced to death. Their appeal to the Supreme Court, the court of final appeal, was rejected on July 28. Also rejected was an application for extraordinary appeal by the Attorney General. The defense attorneys have also applied to the High Court for a retrial. The prospect of a retrial is widely regarded as unpromising.
(Of the other nine, one passed away in prison and another eight who were sentenced to between 10 and 16 years, and eventually dropped their appeals. On the forms to waive their appeals, they maintained their innocence and said they were giving up only to avoid wasting more years in detention.)