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He Jiahong: Back from the Dead-Wrongful Convictions and Criminal Justice in China


Through highlighting and telling the story of some real cases of wrongful conviction, this book introduces the present situation in the Chinese criminal justice system, and makes deep analysis of its problems and loopholes. Enlivened with a literary style, it is a treatise of critical legal study. In the first well-known wrongful conviction case, Teng Xingshan was convicted for murdering his mistress and sentenced to death in 1988; in January the following year, he was executed by shooting. Almost six years later, it was discovered that the supposed victim, Shi Xiaorong, was still alive. On 9 January 2005, Teng¡¯s children submitted a complaint to the Hunan High People¡¯s Court, which then issued a revised judgment in accordance with trial supervision procedure. They declared that Teng Xingshan was not guilty. In the second case, She Xianglin was convicted of murdering his wife in 1994. He was sentenced to death, but this sentence was commuted to fifteen years¡¯ imprisonment later. On 28 March 2005, She Xianglin¡¯s wife, presumed dead for over eleven years, ¡°returned to life¡± and She Xianglin was released from prison two weeks later, retried and found not guilty. By telling these stories of ¡°back from the dead¡±, the author introduces the criminal justice system in China, including the organization and procedure of criminal investigation, the lawyering system, the system of criminal defense, the procuratorial system and public prosecution, the court system and trial proceedings, criminal punishments and the death penalty. From August 2006 to March 2007, the author lead a team of researchers disseminating 2500 copies of questionnaires concerning wrongful convictions in China. The questionnaires were sent to legal professionals in public security bureaus, people¡¯s procuratorates, people¡¯s courts, law firms and justice departments in those areas. The team reclaimed 1715 completed copies of the questionnaires. The team also collected, through various channels, more than 100 cases of wrongful convictions in China (since the 1980s), and analyzed the causes of these wrongful convictions, finding that almost every wrongful conviction was caused by superposition effect of many reasons. Based on the case analysis and the empirical studies, the author summarizes the causes for wrongful convictions and analyzes the ten misleading zones that most affect this outcome: the investigation model from confession to evidence; the improperly tight deadlines set for solving criminal cases; the one-sided and prejudicial collection of evidence; the misinterpretation of scientific evidence; the continued use of torture to extract confessions; the bowing to public opinion; the nominal checks among the police, the procuratorates and the courts; the de-functionalization of courtroom trials; the unlawfully extended custody with tunnel vision; and the reduced sentence in a case of doubt. The author also provides update information about the changes and reforms as well as challenges of the criminal justice in China. This book can be used as a textbook or reference book for students who study Chinese law, or as a general introductory book for people who are interested in China.

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