The Taichung branch of the Taiwan High Court yesterday overturned a life sentence for a man convicted of a brutal killing last year, handing down a reduced 18-year prison term and sparking outrage from the public over the sentence many perceive to be lenient.
The court cited 49-year-old Hsu Wen-ping’s (許文炳) claim of being intoxicated when he killed a friend, Huang Chun-hsiung (黃俊雄), with a knife and the defense’s argument that Hsu is an alcoholic as reasons for the reduced term.
In the first ruling by the Changhua District Court, Hsu was convicted of killing 51-year-old Huang on Jan. 17 last year and received a sentence of life in prison.
An investigation found that Hsu beat Huang, knocked him unconscious with a wooden stool and then stabbed him repeatedly with a utility knife.
Huang reportedly had 17 cuts on his head.
The investigation also found that Hsu cut off Huang’s testicles and left him to bleed to death.
“The men were friends, but got into a squabble over borrowed money and other disputes. Hsu carried out the killing with extreme cruelty and savagery, and he will receive a life sentence due to the vicious nature of the crime,” the Changhua court said in a statement after the first ruling.
When questioned by authorities, Hsu admitted to the killing, saying that Huang owed him NT$3,000 and that he suspected Huang was having a relationship with his ex-wife.
Hsu said that after drinking, he became emotional and rode his motorcycle to Huang’s residence in Changhua County, where they began fighting.
He said that he knocked Huang unconscious with a wooden stool and vaguely recalled stabbing him with a knife.
While he initially denied cutting off Huang’s testicles, Hsu was later quoted as saying: “I do not remember what happened, but later I found his testicles in my hands. I must have grabbed and pulled them off by force.”
However, after police showed him the evidence, Hsu admitted to using the knife to mutilate Huang.
Hsu and Huang often went out drinking together, said a friend of both men, who told police that Hsu was experienced in butchering wild turtles for food.
“The way he used the knife to cut up Huang’s head and chop off his testicles, Hsu was applying his experience, treating Huang just like a butchered turtle,” the friend said.
In yesterday’s ruling, the judges cited the results of a medical assessment by Taichung Veterans General Hospital submitted by the defense, which found that Hsu has alcohol use disorder and that his mental state was likely impaired during the murder due to alcohol.
The judges said Hsu qualified for a reduced term under Article 19 of the Criminal Code, which governs crimes committed by people with mental disorders and stipulates that “punishment may be reduced ... as a result of an obvious reduction in judgement.”
Many people were angered by the ruling, saying that the judges are out of touch with society.
Some said it could create a precedent, as would-be murderers could be shown leniency if they first consume alcohol, with others adding that the nation’s courts are encouraging drunk drivers to kill more people, as they would receive lenient punishment.
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