The man charged in the slaying of a railway police officer last year was acquitted of murder by the Chiayi District Court yesterday, with judges saying that the suspect, surnamed Cheng (鄭), had a mental disorder.
However, Cheng was ordered to undergo five years of psychiatric treatment.
The parents of Lee Cheng-han (李承翰), the 25-year-old railway officer killed in July last year, were at the court. Lee Tseng-wen (李增文), Lee Cheng-han’s father, told reporters after the verdict was announced: “This is outrageous.”
“My son was killed in the line of his duty as a police officer and the court gave a not guilty ruling,” he said. “It is painful for me right now. The judges have lost their senses and reason.”
“He was our only son. He worked diligently and was devoted to his family. We have to suffer the pain and sorrow of his death to this day,” he said. “If we could turn back the clock, we would never allow him to work as a police officer.”
Cheng, 55, was examined by psychiatrists, who said that he was suffering from schizophrenia when he stabbed Lee Cheng-han.
“He was under a delusion that affected his behavior at the time,” the psychiatrists said in a report. “His actions resulted from his mental condition.”
“Psychiatrists say that people with schizophrenia must take medication their whole lives. If they do not, they will relapse,” the report said. “Cheng’s mental capacity had deteriorated and he had lost awareness of his action at the time.”
The judges cited Article 19 of the Criminal Code: “An offense is not punishable if it is committed by a person who is mentally disordered.”
Cheng was granted release on NT$500,000 bail, but his family reportedly could not pay the amount, so he remained in detention yesterday.
The stabbing was captured on video.
Cheng had refused to pay his fare and became violent. When the train arrived at Chiayi Station, Lee Cheng-han boarded the car to try and remove him.
In the struggle, Cheng stabbed the officer.
Despite the severe wound, Lee continued to hold Cheng as passengers disarmed him.
Minister of Justice Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥) said that killing a police officer is a very serious crime and criminals must not be permitted to evade prosecution by using mental disorders as an excuse.
Tsai joined calls from prosecutors and police officials to appeal the ruling.
“The Railway Police Bureau has been one of the Taiwan Railways Administration’s [TRA] important partners, with the two agencies working together over the years to keep passengers safe and rail operations secure,” the TRA said in a statement.
“Railway police officers have helped resolve ticketing disputes. Lee sacrificed his life to protect passengers, but the Chiayi District Court ruled that the perpetrator is not guilty and granted bail of NT$500,000,” it said.
“It is regrettable that the court made this decision and we would support prosecutors should they appeal the verdict,” the TRA said.
“It is our sincere hope that our law enforcement officers have the backing of the judicial system.”
Netizens condemned the ruling, writing that it was another situation where “dinosaur judges” had let a killer get away with his crime.
People also flooded the Judicial Yuan’s Web site with messages criticizing the judges.
Additional reporting by Shelley Shan
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