The Supreme Court yesterday awarded Hsu Jung-chou (許榮洲), acquitted of the rape and murder of a five-year-old girl at Air Force Command Headquarters in 1996, state compensation totaling NT$1.59 million (US$50,997) for time he spent in detention during judicial proceedings.
The court awarded Hsu compensation of NT$2,000 per day for a total of 796 days he spent in detention. Hsu was initially found guilty, but subsequent appeals to higher courts saw the verdict eventually overturned due to insufficient evidence.
Yesterday’s state compensation ruling by the Supreme Court is final and cannot be appealed.
The trial over the rape and murder of the girl, surnamed Hsieh (謝), drew substantial public attention to the miscarriage of justice by military investigators and court judges after the wrongful conviction and execution of 21-year-old airman Chiang Kuo-ching (江國慶) in 1997.
It was only later that the public learned that an innocent man was put to death, as Chiang had been tortured and forced to sign a confession under duress, while investigators failed to carry out forensic examinations and no scientific verification of evidence presented by military prosecutors was carried out.
In a September 2011 retrial, a military court exonerated Chiang and awarded his family NT$103.18 million (US$3.4 million at the time) in compensation.
New evidence and witness testimony that emerged in 2000 pointed to Hsu as the prime suspect in the case.
At that time, Hsu was serving a jail sentence in a military prison for the rape and murder of young girls in Taichung in 1997, cases which reportedly had many similarities to the 1996 case at Air Force Command Headquarters, where Hsu served concurrently with Chiang.
In December 2011, the Taipei District Court found Hsu guilty of the rape and murder of Hsieh, sentencing him to an 18-year prison term. The judgement cited bloody palm prints found at the scene of the crime and in a basement washroom, and confessions that Hsu made several times throughout the investigation.
In a subsequent appeal, the Taiwan High Court in April 2013 overturned Hsu’s conviction, citing insufficient evidence and inconsistencies between his confession and aspects of the case. It was further noted by the court that Hsu, who allegedly has a low mental capacity and cannot express himself well, could not have produced the confession that was written down by a military investigator.
The ruling also said that, while the bloody palm prints put Hsu at the scene of the crime, it was not sufficient evidence to prove that he had actually committed the crime.
In March last year, the Supreme Court also cited insufficient evidence in upholding the High Court’s ruling, a final decision that cannot be appealed.
The case remains unsolved.