The Supreme Court yesterday sentenced a 23-year-old man, who had murdered his father with a hammer and stabbed his sister multiple times, to life imprisonment, overturning the death sentence given by lower courts.
Reading out the ruling, presiding judge Huang Yi-hsin (黃一鑫) said that while Wu Chi-hao (吳啟豪), of Hsinchu County’s Sinfong Township (新豐), had committed horrendous crimes by beating his father to death with a hammer and attempting to murder his sister with a pair of scissors, he had expressed regret for his actions, showed concern for the sister and maintained a harmonious relationship with his cellmates.
“In light of these findings, the court determined to sentence him to life imprisonment and deprive him of his civil rights for life. The verdict is final,” Huang said.
Wu, who had been unemployed since he dropped out of high school, had a quarrel with his drunk father on Jan. 8, 2011, after his father nagged him to get a job.
Wu dragged his father downstairs to the living room, where he hit his father in the head and face almost 20 times with an iron hammer, stopping only after his father showed no signs of life.
Wu then ran upstairs and stabbed his sister in the neck with a pair of scissors, reportedly to eliminate her as a witness. His sister fled the house, crying for help, and was taken to a hospital.
Wu turned himself in to police and was detained on a charge of murder.
Wu was given the death penalty by the Hsinchu District Court in his first trial, during which he threatened to “finish off his entire family if the court does not sentence him to death.”
In the second trial, the Taiwan High Court overturned the district court’s ruling and sentenced Wu to life, but it later sought the death penalty during the case’s first retrial.
The Supreme Court held a hearing on Jan. 22 to examine the justification for the death sentence.
Judicial experts said that while the Supreme Court’s presiding judges were entitled to make a ruling themselves, such verdicts were relatively rare because most judges tended to remand cases to lower courts for retrials or repeal previous rulings.
Wu’s youngest sister, who was away from home at the time of the murder, said she feared another tragedy should her brother ever be released on parole.
Although Wu had sent the family several letters of repentance, she said she doubted that her brother had truly changed.
Other relatives said yesterday’s verdict fell short of public expectations and they planned to seek another retrial or an extraordinary appeal.
The ruling sparked complaints among netizens.
“It is no lie that one can get away from a death penalty in Taiwan despite having killed one or two people,” wrote one netizen going by the name “wtula.”
Another netizen, who identified himself as “steward135,” wrote: “There would be no death sentence at all as long as every culprit pretends to shows remorse for their crimes after being caught.”