Sun, Aug 29, 2010 - Page 13 News List

Guilty by association?

A new forensic study in Taiwan’s most infamous murder case found no evidence against the three co-defendants and concludes that the ‘Hsichih Trio’ most likely were not present at the scene of the 1991 crime

By Celia Llopis-Jepsen  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Lee found that it would be “almost impossible” for four people to have carried out the murders together.

Based on the position of blood pools, stains and splatters, the victims’ bodies and the angle of the knife wounds, Lee determined that the murderer was standing within a very confined area during his attack.

“There is not sufficient space available to accommodate the type of assault-murder described in the Indictment,” he writes.

Moreover, had four killers been standing around the victims, their bodies would have intercepted much of the blood that splattered onto the surrounding walls and furniture. Yet profuse amounts of uninterrupted blood splatters were recorded.

As for the murder weapon, Lee disagrees with previous forensic reports that said the wounds on the victims’ bodies indicate that more than one knife was used. The wounds could all have been caused by a meat cleaver, Lee says.

Finally, he notes the lack of any fingerprints or other evidence linking Su, Chuang and Liu to the scene.

He concludes: “Based on the distribution and conditions of the bloodstain patterns, the reconstruction of the crime scene, and the fact that only one person’s bloody fingerprint and one type of shoeprint were found at the scene, there is a high likelihood that Wang Wen-hsiao acted alone in committing this crime.”

By law, Su, Chuang and Liu must be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Articles 154 and 301 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法) state that every defendant shall be presumed innocent until proven otherwise, that guilt can only be proven through evidence and that absent this evidence, the defendant shall be acquitted.

But their defense lawyers say this code has been disregarded at trial after trial. Nevertheless, the defense counsel hopes Lee’s report could be what is needed to tip the scales in their clients’ favor.

The last time Lee testified, in May 2007, the prosecution argued that his statement did not legally constitute testimony. Under Article 198 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, judges and prosecutors — but not defense lawyers — “may select one or more expert witnesses.”

Seven weeks later the judges found the trio guilty.

Prosecutors no longer have recourse to that argument, as Lee’s role in this trial is court-appointed. That means, the defense hopes, that the outcome this time around may be different.

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