A prosecutor’s tears during the last day of the corruption trial of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) at Taipei District Court on Tuesday has been the subject of discussion among analysts, the media and the public.
Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) scheduled Tuesday for Chen’s last court appearance before the verdict is announced on Sept. 11.
Thanks to four-hour-long speeches from both the prosecution and the defense, Tuesday’s marathon hearing ran from 9:30am to well past midnight, with no recess for dinner.
Most reporters covering Chen’s trial expected the day’s highlights to come from Chen. He had remained silent for months to protest what he calls an unfair judicial system, but had prepared a long speech to “report to the people” for the final hearing.
However, the talking points arrived sooner than expected, when Lin Chin-kang (林勤綱), chief prosecutor at the district court, cried for more than an hour while making his closing arguments.
He began by looking directly at the former president and saying that he wanted to have a “heart-to-heart talk” with him.
He described Chen as a revolutionary who had “lost his ideals along the way” because he gave in to greed. He said Chen entered public life in order to change it, but instead, had seen his spirit killed.
“That which kills the spirit is more feared than what kills the body,” he said.
Lin used the title of Chen’s book, Taiwan’s Cross, to ask for Chen’s forgiveness. Lin said he must convict Chen “in order to reflect the glory of the good values you [Chen] used your life to instill.”
Despite pouring out his heart, at several moments during his closing argument, Lin suddenly stopped crying to calmly give instructions to the court stenographer about where to put commas or when to move the cursor to the next line.
The ease with which he switched between moods evoked muffled giggles from reporters listening to the proceedings.
However, if the judges were amused, they did not show it. Tsai maintained a stern expression, with his eyebrows furrowed and lips tightly pressed into a thin line most of the time.
When Lin was already an hour into his tearful speech and began to talk about the history of the cross, Tsai interrupted him to tell him not to stray off topic.
A senior court reporter who has been friends with Lin for a long time said he had never seen Lin cry in court before, but could understand why he would be so emotional.
“They [Lin and Chen] both fought for Taiwan’s democracy movement many years ago, so now Lin is asking, how can you [Chen] have done this when we have come so far?” the reporter said.
Lin and Chen go way back. They attended law school together at National Taiwan University. They were both activists pushing for the country’s democratic reform and both served as defense attorneys for those involved in the Kaohsiung Incident, a defining moment in the democracy movement’s battle against the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) authoritarian regime.
Lin’s tears received widespread coverage and became the main topic on many political talk shows yesterday.
While some said such excessive displays of emotion were unfit for a courtroom, others sympathized with Lin.
On one talk show, former Democratic Progressive Party legislator Shen Fu-hsiung (沈富雄) said he felt moved by Lin’s words to the former president.