The High Court’s Tainan branch yesterday overturned a death sentence on rape and murder charges against Hsieh Chih-hung (謝志宏) based on new findings from the Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office after it restarted the investigation.
Hsieh was accused of being an accomplice to Kuo Chun-wei (郭俊偉) in the murder of a woman surnamed Chen (陳), 18, and a man surnamed Chang (張), 68, on June 24, 2000.
After first being found guilty in October 2001, Hsieh and Kuo had their verdicts and death sentences upheld in seven subsequent retrials, during which Hsieh maintained his innocence and said that his confession resulted from torture.
Photo: Wang Chieh, Taipei Times
In September 2018, the Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office, citing new evidence that proved Hsieh’s innocence, filed for a retrial.
The High Court on March 14 last year accepted the petition and ordered Hsieh’s sentence to be temporarily suspended.
The court then granted a request to release Hsieh from the Tainan Detention Center, where he had been held since 2001, and began to hear the new case presented by prosecutors, before delivering the verdict yesterday.
Photo: Wang Chieh, Taipei Times
Yesterday’s decision stated that because the police had not recorded either of Hsieh’s interrogation sessions and could provide little to no corroborating material, the interrogation was in breach of the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法).
Hsieh’s confession could therefore not be used as evidence, it said.
Kuo had accused Hsieh of being his accomplice and passed polygraph testing, but the court said that the testing should only point to Kuo’s credibility and not be considered proof of it.
Given that Kuo was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, the court dismissed the polygraph results.
A coroner’s examination of the victims’ bodies found wounds of various depths and stated that it was possible that there might have been more than one perpetrator, but it is reasonable that Kuo committed both murders, the court said.
The collegiate bench convened to preside over the case yesterday cited these reasons as grounds for finding Hsieh innocent.
The ruling can be appealed.
Hsieh, after exiting the courthouse yesterday, bowed in the direction of the bench, saying that he also wished to thank his lawyer, Yeh Chien-ting (葉建廷), for using his situation as a case study for his class and for bringing it to the attention of Lan Chin-lung (藍錦龍) of the Yilan County forensics office.
Hsieh also expressed thanks to the Taiwan Innocence Project and lawyer Tu Hsin-cheng (涂欣成), both having helped with his case.
“Please don’t look at death-row inmates as criminals, but as people, and let them have the chance, as I did, to look into their case again,” Hsieh said.
Prosecutors said that they would determine whether to appeal the ruling once it receives the verdict.
Additional reporting by Wang Chieh
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