Man freed after his conviction for murder overturned by court

2020-12-18 12:10:11

A Tianjin man had his name cleared on Thursday after a retrial ruled there was no corroborating or sufficient evidence to support his conviction for intentional homicide 17 years ago. The Tianjin High People's Court overturned the original ruling that gave Yang Songfa a suspended death sentence and declared the 55-year-old not guilty as the evidence in his case was not enough to prove he committed the crime. In March 2001, the body of Liu Caiju, a woman who worked with Yang at a company in Tianjin and had close relationship with him, was found. Yang was identified as the suspect and detained after an investigation by police. In 2003, the No 2 Intermediate People's Court in Tianjin sentenced Yang to death with a two-year reprieve, mainly based on a confession that Wu Danhong, an attorney who has represented Yang since 2017, said was obtained under torture. Yang was continuously interrogated for over 48 hours, according to transcripts taken from May 30 to June 1, 2001. The original verdict said Yang killed Liu with a kitchen knife after a quarrel and dumped her body into a nearby river. Yang appealed the ruling to a higher court, but the high court rejected his appeal and upheld the original ruling in 2007. Later, Yang filed a complaint again. After years of petitioning, in December 2018, the Supreme People's Court in Beijing ordered the high court in Tianjin to retry the case on the basis of "unclear facts and contradictions in the main evidence". During the retrial in September this year, the court ruled that transcripts of Yang's incriminating statements could not be used as evidence since their legality was questionable and their evidentiary capacity was flawed. For example, the kitchen knife that Yang allegedly used was said to have been stolen from Liu's sister's house in the transcripts, but the type of knife was different from that described by the sister. Meanwhile, the high court said Yang's confession was also found to be inconsistent with testimony from witnesses and the autopsy. Yang was acquitted and immediately released in court after the final verdict on Thursday. The court said he has been informed that he has the right to apply for state compensation for wrongful conviction.