Demolition killer loses death sentence appeal
A villager who killed two men in eastern China during an argument over the demolition of his house has lost an appeal against his suspended death sentence.
Ding Hanzhong attacked his victims with a sickle after bulldozers arrived outside his home in Dingjiashan village, Shandong province, on Sept 25, 2013.
The 56-year-old was convicted in August by a court in Weifang and sentenced to death, suspended for two years, which in most cases means life in prison.
On Thursday, the Shandong High People's Court upheld that judgment, saying in an online statement that "the way Ding attacked the two demolition workers was cruel", while his behavior qualified as homicide.
Ding was informed in 2013 that his neighborhood was to be demolished to make way for the construction of an undisclosed project. However, he refused to accept the compensation offered by the provincial government.
When demolition day arrived, he would not leave his house, leading to a standoff with the wrecking crew.
Huang Zhongtai, one of the workers, attempted to stop the villager's son from taking pictures of the scene, which is when Ding picked up a sickle and struck the worker in the head and face. He then attacked another worker, Huang Guohou.
Huang Guohou died later that day in hospital, while Huang Zhongtai died the next day, according to a statement from the high court.
"Despite the mistakes made by the demolition crew, who also hit Ding during the argument, we have decided to uphold the suspended death sentence handed down by the lower court," the statement said. It added that his sentence cannot be commuted "as the incident brought great negative effect to society".
Ding's daughter told Shanghai news website The Paper that the family was unhappy with the high court ruling and would apply for a retrial.
Zhao Li, a criminal lawyer in Beijing, explained that defendants can first apply for a retrial to the high court under Criminal Procedure Law, "and if they are still not happy, they are allowed to ask the Supreme People's Court to review their case".
"The judgment for Ding is OK, as it not only took the defendant's situation into consideration, but also paid attention to the demolition and the influence brought by the case," he said.
In China, a suspended death sentence usually means a convict will spend 25 years in prison, but this can be reduced depending on their behavior, Zhao added.