Thu, April 21, 2011
China > Mainland

Yao's case not ideal symbol of campaign to abolish death penalty: expert

2011-04-21 02:50:51 GMT2011-04-21 10:50:51(Beijing Time)  Global Times

The victim's 30-month-old son. Photos: CFP

The murder suspect in court. Photos: CFP

About survey: The survey was conducted jointly by the Criminal Law Science Research Center of Wuhan University and the Germany-based Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law. They interviewed 4,472 ordinary people and 455 professionals including lawyers and officials in Beijing, Hubei and Guangdong provinces between 2007 and 2008.

Friday is an important day for legal professors, online commentators and numerous anonymous netizens who are waiting eagerly to hear what punishment a murder suspect will receive. It is no ordinary case.

For weeks now, outspoken public figures have been engaged in a heated debate about whether or not to abolish the death penalty in China.

It's been a simmering issue but many feel the debate is taking place at the wrong time and over the wrong case since the suspect has been accused of an especially heinous act.

Yao Jiaxin, 21, a music student at the Xi'an Conservatory of Music in Shaanxi Province, was charged with stabbing a woman to death moments after he struck her with his car.

The victim, Zhang Miao, 26, was taking down the car's plate number when Yao noticed it and used his knife to stab her six times on the street.

Zhang, mother of a two-year-old boy, apparently only suffered minor injuries. But Yao, the son of a retired military official, jumped out of his Chevrolet and decided she would be "hard to deal with."

The accident, stabbing and trial have captured the attention of people on the blog sphere and beyond triggering a debate about whether Yao deserves the death penalty and if it's time to put capital punishment in the history books.

In court, Yao's lawyer said the piano student committed a "crime of passion" for fear of the consequences.

Yao's father tried to offer the woman"s family 30,000 yuan ($4,594) but they called it "blood money" and turned it down.

During the March 23 trial, Yao's lawyer pleaded for a lenient sentence by saying Yao was a "model student."

During the three-hour session, Yao broke down in tears as he talked about being forced to play the piano and that it drove him to consider suicide.

Li Meijin, a professor of criminal psychology at Chinese People's Public Security University, told a CCTV interviewer that Yao's behavior was "compulsive," because he was forced to play the piano by his parents.

The public was angered. Internet users called her the "defender of a murderer" and launched a "human flesh search engine," and rallied together to discredit her.

Popular justice

The public was also angered when the local court, in a rare but not unprecedented move, asked 400 students to vote on whether Yao deserved the death penalty. The students chose to spare Yao's life.

Courts are not usually open to large crowds of people and the public believes the students were selected carefully since most of them are reportedly from Yao's college.

"I think the situation is scary. It is scarier than the night when Yao stabbed that woman," Li Chengpeng, a well-known writer, said on his blog about using the students to determine Yao's fate.

Another lawyer echoed those sentiments.

"It is not clear how it is connected to the abolition of the death penalty. I don"t know how they (defendant) could do that," said a lawyer who asked not to be named.

The discussion of the death penalty existed long before this case.

"But the judge in this case won"t be able to abolish the death penalty overnight as China is not a nation that depends on legal precedents," the lawyer said.

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