Sat, Jul 07, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's Mailbag

The Hsichih Trio may still be on death row, but it could be worse. At least they aren't designers of China-smooching Web sites for environmental activism. That might just compensate for being jailed for years in a case with no material evidence

Gang-raping justice

Dear Johnny,

Well, the Hsichih Trio are up for execution again because the Taiwanese court system seems to fail to understand what "beyond reasonable doubt" means.

Added to this is the report that murder victim Yeh Ying-lan (葉盈蘭) was supposedly gang-raped. Where are the DNA samples and the profiles? Were they ever collected? Or have they been carefully "lost"?

In either case, the prosecution should lose. DNA profiling was working fine in 1993; I know because I was acting as a scientific consultant on murder trials in South Africa. The mixture of DNA might have caused problems in 1993, but not now.

So a question for you: Why don't we hear of DNA profiling helping to free the innocent in Taiwan as in other countries? Bad lawyers, bad police work or just a system that still tends to convict because "the police must have the right man" and "evidence against a guilty person is always true"?

Professor Ralph Kirby MA PhD LLB (that's just to show that I think I know what I'm talking about)

National Yang-Ming University

Johnny replies: The reason DNA profiling is not used to protect innocent people from conviction in Taiwan is apparently because all of the available equipment is being used to settle custody disputes over pet dogs (see my column on Jan. 13).

And besides, celebrity forensics expert Henry Lee (李昌鈺) told the High Court that there wasn't forensic evidence of any gang-rape to begin with: no semen, no vaginal bleeding. Not that this made any difference.

Three comments, Professor Kirby. The first is that, as I'm sure you're aware, cases that go to trial here have an extraordinarily high conviction rate. So high in fact that you would need all the evidence on your side and divine assistance to be found not guilty.

The second is that judges play a much more interventionist role in court, sometimes effectively doubling as prosecutors (mmm, smells mustily like the Martial Law era, no?).

The third is that after the latest Hsichih Trio death sentence was imposed, the judge walked away from the court sporting what looked like a baseball cap.

Need I say more?

Live Earth: China toadies?

Dear Johnny,

I was reading the Web site for Live Earth and I decided to sign the pledge. I was almost ready to make the commitment when I had to choose the country where I live. Then I saw that Taiwan was called "Taiwan, province of China."

This made me decide not to sign. I do agree with Live Earth, but they should get their facts straight about Taiwan. Instead, I sent them an e-mail asking them to change Taiwan's name. I hope that more people can tell Live Earth that they should correct their mistake, and when they do we could sign the pledge.

Micha van den Berg

Johnny replies: They must have responded, Micha, because I couldn't find "Taiwan, province of China" anywhere on the Web site.

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