Fri, Jul 29, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Longest-running murder case finally comes to end

PINBALL:The case of Chiou Ho-shun, who was given the death penalty for allegedly killing an nine-year-old boy, has been kicked around for more than two decades

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Reporter

Lu Cheng, the victim in the kidnap and murder case for which Chiou Ho-shun and accomplices were convicted, is shown in this undated photograph.

Photo: Courtesy of Lu Cheng’s family

Chiou Ho-shun (邱和順) exhausted his final appeal yesterday when the Supreme Court reaffirmed a death sentence for kidnapping and murdering a nine-year-old boy more than two decades ago.

The decision ends the nation’s longest-running legal battle, which saw the case shuffled back and forth between various courts, with allegations by judicial reform advocates that evidence was acquired through torture and forced confessions.

The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that Chiou, detained for most of his adult life, received a fair trial and deserved to die for his 1987 slaying of Lu Cheng (陸正), a boy that prosecutors said he kidnapped, dismembered and then threw in the ocean after a botched kidnapping.

He was also found guilty of the separate robbery and murder of an insurance agent who had just won a lottery-like game popular at the time — receiving another death penalty verdict in the same ruling.

A spokesperson for his pro bono legal team, Lin Feng-jeng (林峰正), called the decision “unacceptable,” saying that the abrupt finding came before the court had time to finish reviewing new information provided by the defense.

“The Supreme Court used two months to affirm a controversial ruling from a lower court in a 23-year-old case. It’s too soon and we believe it to be completely unacceptable that a person’s life can be decided this way,” Lin said.

However, the ruling cited overwhelming proof in support of the verdict, based on eyewitness accounts and other evidence.

Chiou and several accomplices are said to have kidnapped the nine-year-old boy when he was walking home from school on Dec. 21, 1987, in a case that dominated media headlines at the time. Prosecutors said Lu resisted the kidnap attempt by Chiou’s girlfriend and was killed after he bit Chiou’s finger.

Prosecutors said that when Lu’s parents later received a ransom note for NT$5 million (US$173,000), the boy was already dead, having been dumped off the coast of Hsinchu County after being dismembered. The boy’s parents paid NT$1 million to the captors.

After a tip-off in September the following year, police arrested three suspects, who quickly confessed to the kidnapping and also the separate murder of Ko Hung Yu-lan (柯洪玉蘭), the insurance agent. Chiou, in detention for another case at the time, was implicated as the head of the criminal ring.

Police eventually obtained confessions from 11 suspects, but as more details surfaced, -discrepancies emerged in their accounts, including contradictions on where the body was disposed of. Charges against most of the other suspects have since been dismissed.

Chiou, his girlfriend, Wu Shu-chen (吳淑貞), and Lin Kun-ming (林坤明) are the only defendants to have been found guilty. The Supreme Court yesterday also upheld 10 and 17-year sentences for Wu and Lin, in line with the High Court ruling.

Lawyers for Chiou and the two other defendants said the murder investigation into Lu’s killing was riddled with problems, including a lack of forensic evidence linking them to the crime. The murder weapon, body and clothes of the victim were never found and prosecutors have based their case on the confessions.

Two prosecutors and 10 police officers involved in the case were impeached by the Control Yuan more than a decade ago for using violence and threats to acquire speedy confessions — which were still accepted as evidence.

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