Sat, May 07, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Death penalty debate rekindled

TAINAN BOY’S MURDER:Capital punishment abolitionists said the nation has executed innocent people and ‘confessions’ have been beaten out of some accused

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

The Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday to spare the life of convicted child killer Tseng Wen-chin (曾文欽) by commuting his sentence to life in prison has stirred up debate over capital punishment.

Tseng, 32, was found guilty of the random killing of a 10-year-old boy when he slashed the boy’s throat in Tainan in 2012.

Lin Hsin-yi (林欣怡), who is head of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, yesterday said the public did not have a full understanding of the judiciary’s ruling.

“The judges did not hand out the death sentence, because they do not want to punish Tseng for his crime, but because a life sentence is a more severe punishment for Tseng,” she said.

She said the public might have distorted Tseng’s remarks after his arrest, when he said: “In Taiwan, you will not be sentenced to death for killing just one or two people.”

“The media kept bringing up what Tseng said and the public felt he was a vile, cruel man. They believed Tseng killed so he could go to jail and get three meals a day. This led to the sentiment that Tseng should be put to death for his heinous crime, but that was a misunderstanding, because Tseng wanted to die. He was not trying to beg for his life,” Lin said.

No matter what, it was a severe wrongdoing by Tseng that cost a life which cannot be replaced, Lin said, adding: “Let’s examine the facts. The ruling by the judges was for life imprisonment, which is a more severe punishment for Tseng than a death sentence.”

Other advocates who support the abolition of capital punishment said the nation’s justice system has not progressed and many wrongful convictions had been made that resulted in the execution of innocent people.

Many judicial officials still retained their Martial Law-era mentality and trying to extract confessions through brutal beatings, electric shocks and other torture methods, the group said.

Chen Cheng-yu (陳正育), the convener for a coalition of groups against abolishing capital punishment castigated the judges for not sentencing Tseng to death.

“In Taiwan, we are deficient in justice and equality. I urge everyone to call the Ministry of Justice to express our anger so the government can hear the voices of the common people,” he said.

Chen called on legislators to amend the law to institute a system to review and evaluate the judiciary and replace judges who are not suited for their positions.

Other experts said Tseng’s case could have been prevented if his family and friends had shown more concern, adding that Taiwan lacked a good social welfare network to assist marginalized people.

Criminology professor Shen Sheng-ang (沈勝昂), who conducted the psychiatric assessment for the case, said Tseng told him: “I live a miserable life. Nobody wants to be my friend, because I am fat and not good-looking.”

Investigators said Tseng came from an impoverished family and his parents separated when he was 12. After grade school, he worked in a factory as a manual laborer and in the six months prior to his crime he was unemployed and had no money.

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