Ministry death penalty review too narrow: lawyer

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Sun, Mar 27, 2016 - Page 3

A Ministry of Justice-initiated review of “controversial” death penalty cases is too narrow and self-limiting, the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty said yesterday.

“Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) is in the transition period between administrations and should not have issued the order,” said Lin Tzu-wei (林慈偉), the head of the alliance’s legal department, adding that while the “direction” was commendable, because the scope of the review was narrowly limited to “controversial” cases, it could lead to the “deception” that a full review had been conducted.

“What is important about most of these cases is not whether the person committed the crime, but rather what degree of punishment is appropriate,” the lawyer said.

Luo announced the review this week at the suggestion of Supreme Prosecutor Yen Ta-ho (顏大和).

The review is warranted because of the irreversible nature of the death penalty, she said.

Her order requires a working group from the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office to reopen files of inmates in controversial death penalty cases whose sentencing has been finalized, taking remedial measures if any new evidence or file inconsistencies that might be advantageous to the convict are found.

The order came following prosecutors’ decision last week to apply for a retrial of a case involving Cheng Hsing-tse (鄭性澤) following the emergence of new forensic evidence casting doubt on his conviction for a 2002 killing of a police officer.

The case was reportedly the first for which prosecutors sought a retrial after the Supreme Court had already issued a final ruling upholding the death sentence.

Lin said the files of the nation’s 42 death row inmates should be reviewed because of widespread legal irregularities such as failing to have the opportunity to testify before the Supreme Court and being tried before court rulings and legal amendments established their right to question witnesses in court.