Henan villager jailed for over 15 yrs vindicated in retrial

(chinadaily.com.cn) Updated : 2020-04-03

A villager from Henan province had his name cleared on Wednesday due to insufficient evidence to prove his conviction of intentional homicide, more than 15 years after he was wrongly detained.

The Henan High People's Court overturned the original ruling in which the villager, Wu Chunhong, was sentenced to life in prison, and announced that Wu, now 49, is not guilty, "because the chain of evidence in his case was not complete to prove his conviction".

Due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, the hearing was held via remote video.

"My client couldn't help crying when he heard he was innocent," said Wu's lawyer, Li Changqing.

Presiding judge Tong Xingfu told Wu that he has the right to apply for State compensation.

When Wu was released from prison in Jinhua, Zhejiang province, his son picked him up and took him back to his hometown in Minquan county, Henan province.

"My sister and I plan to give my father a physical check first and spend some time helping him integrate into society," said Wu's son, Wu Yunlei. "My mom, who works in Guangdong province, also returned home on Wednesday. We will have a family reunion soon."

"Also, I hope to celebrate my father's 50th birthday next week, as it's like a day for him to be reborn," he said.

As for the State compensation, he added he would submit the application after negotiating with the lawyer.

On Nov 15, 2004, a 3-year-old boy in Minquan died after eating homemade food containing poisoned flour. His elder brother fell ill and was admitted to hospital but recovered.

Seven days later, the Minquan police named Wu Chunhong as the suspect in the boy's death and criminally detained him, saying Wu had a dispute with the victims' father, Wang Zhansheng, who collected electricity payments in the village.

The police added that Wu was not happy when Wang urged him to pay the charges on Nov 14 and put rat poison in the flour in Wang's family kitchen.

In June 2005, Wu was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve for intentional homicide by the Shangqiu Intermediate People's Court, but the Henan High People's Court ordered a retrial after Wu appealed.

Over the next three years, the intermediate people's court handed down the same sentence to Wu twice, with the high court rejecting both results and sending the case back to the lower court each time.

In October 2008, Wu was given life imprisonment, with the high people's court upholding that ruling.

Since then, Wu's family had been appealing, "as we always believed my father was innocent, and we had no conflict with Wang's family," said Wu Lili, Wu's daughter.

In October 2018, the Supreme People's Court, China's top court, ordered the Henan High People's Court to retry the case after reviewing the appeal materials provided by the family, and the rehearing was held a year later.

"I'm looking forward to my father's return," said Wu Lili, who was preparing daily necessities for him on Wednesday. "I've been waiting for this day for a long time."