Mentally ill man taken off death row

DOUBT::The Supreme Court cited UN covenants that ban sentencing the mentally ill to death, but a victim’s husband said the man’s actions suggested he was not ill

By Yang Kuo-wen and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - Page 4

The Supreme Court yesterday overturned a death sentence given by lower courts to a mentally ill man convicted of brutally murdering a woman and two little girls, citing two UN human rights covenants that the nation ratified in 2009 prohibiting the sentencing of mentally ill people to death.

Chen Kun-ming’s (陳昆明) case has now been remanded to lower courts for a retrial.

In addition to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Social and Cultural Rights, the Supreme Court cited seven other reasons for overturning the sentence, including Chen being diagnosed with mental disorders by seven hospitals, including National Taiwan University Hospital.

The ruling came just two weeks after the Supreme Court conducted an open debate on Chen’s fate on Oct. 7.

In April 2003, Chen, then aged 20, murdered his neighbor’s eight-year-old daughter and her nine-year-old sister.

When asked why he did it, Chen said the demon inside him had ordered him to commit the gruesome crime.

The Taiwan High Court in April 2009 gave Chen a prison sentence of 12 years, based on psychologists’ conclusions that he was mentally ill at the time of the murders and had paid NT$2.5 million (US$85,000) in compensation to the girls’ family.

In May 2009, the Ministry of Justice halved Chen’s jail term as part of an amnesty program implemented in April 2006, leading to his early release from jail in July that year.

Chen was subsequently sent to a military hospital for medical treatment, but was allowed to go home two months later after the hospital told prosecutors that his mental condition had shown “substantial improvement.”

In October 2010, Chen placed a help-wanted advertisement in newspapers claiming to be looking for women to sell betel nuts.

A woman surnamed Lin (林) went to Chen’s house in response to the ad, but was told to come again the next morning for an official interview.

When she did, Chen allegedly smashed her head in with a bat, killing her.

After hearing the Supreme Court’s decision, Lin’s husband said: “The defendant has his human rights, but where are ours? Who is there to protect my human rights?”

“If Chen really is as mentally ill as he claims to be, he would have killed my wife the first day he saw her and would not have had the patience to wait until the next day to commit the crime,” the husband said.

Additional Reporting by CNA