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Supreme Court ensures strict control of death penalty
Latest Updated by 2006-12-29 09:38:37
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"Judges who are found to have taken or offered bribes, or have abused their power will be instantly deposed, and will face criminal charges if their actions break the law," said Xiao Yang, President of the SPC.
Xiao Yang, President of the Supreme People's Court (Xinhua Photo)

A Supreme People's Court spokesman on Thursday reiterated China's intentions to exert strict controls over the application of the death penalty ahead of January 1, 2007,the date the Supreme People's Court takes back the power of death penalty review.

"China's consistent principle is to maintain the death penalty, but use it strictly," said the spokesman.

"China's courts will adhere to this principle, hand out death penalty with great caution and try to minimize its use to ensure capital punishment is only given to a handful of criminals who commit extremely notorious crimes," the spokesman said.

He said the Supreme People's Court (SPC) would further reduce the use of death penalty for crimes for which capital punishment was commonly used in the past.

He said the defendant's rights must be fully safeguarded and any testimony extracted through illegal means must be declared invalid.

The SPC held that the method of handing down the death penalty with a reprieve not only severely punishes crimes and serves as a major deterrent, but also reduces the number of executions. This method shall be used more in future, the spokesman said. 
More leniency will be shown when measuring penalties, according to the spokesman. "Those who plead guilty and provide important information or those who are accessories in a criminal case will, in general, be given more lenient punishments," said the spokesman.

The death penalty will be administered very cautiously in criminal cases involving disputes between families and neighbors, according to the SPC.

"But for extremely notorious criminal cases with overwhelming evidence, the death penalty with immediate execution will be passed down without hesitation," said the spokesman.

For having adequate personnel to review death penalty cases, the Supreme People's Court has added two vice president posts, two full-time judicial committee member posts and three criminal tribunals.

The SPC has five criminal tribunals. The second criminal tribunal is responsible for reviewing the death penalty for economic crimes and the other four tribunals will review the death penalties given for all other crimes, said Jiang Xingchang, vice president of the SPC.

The SPC has seconded qualified judges from local courts, experienced lawyers and law professors to carry out the death penalty reviews.

"In death penalty reviews, judges must fully review the evidence, laws and regulations application, measurement of penalty, and the litigation process in the previous trial and should hear the defendant out either in person or by letter, before they reach the final decision," said Zhang Jun, vice president of Supreme People's Court.

Zhang said if judges find the evidence is inadequate, the measurement of the penalty improper, or the litigation process illegal when reviewing the death penalty, they should submit the case to SPC's judicial committee.

The judicial committee will further consider the case with a procurator in attendance from the Supreme People's Procuratorate.

"Death penalty cases without an open second trial will not be reviewed by the SPC, but will be sent back to the court of second instance for open trial," said Xiong Xuanguo, vice president of Supreme People's Court.

Xiong also said the Supreme People's Court would strengthen supervision and guidance to intermediate and higher courts in cases where death penalties are imposed.

The Supreme People's Court is drafting a circular to further regulate the trial processes of courts of first and second instance.

It also promised to root out corruption and nepotism among its judges.

"Judges who are found to have taken or offered bribes, or have abused their power will be instantly deposed, and will face criminal charges if their actions break the law," said Xiao Yang, President of the SPC.

The SPC will improve internal supervision to leave no room for corruption after it recovers the death penalty review right, said Xiao.

Editor: Yan

By: Source: China View website
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