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Hsichih Trio not guilty, may get NT$25 mil. each

The China Post news staff--Taiwan's High Court yesterday acquitted the “Hsichih Trio” of murder charges, ending a controversial 21-year legal battle that had seen numerous retrials with five justice ministers rescuing the defendants from the death row.

The defendants, Su Chien-ho, Liu Bing-lang and Chuang Lin-hsun, who are all aged around 40, showed little emotion upon hearing the judge read out a verdict in favor of them.

The verdict is final, as further appeals by either the prosecution or the family of the victims would be almost impossible under the latest revisions to the law.

“I've never been happy since I was 19,” Su said later, summing up the ordeal he and his co-defendants have suffered since they were arrested and charged with murdering Wu Ming-han and his wife, Yeh Ying-lan, 21 years ago.

The couple was found dead with multiple knife wounds at their Hsichih, Taipei County (now New Taipei City) apartment in 1991.

A man, Wang Wen-hsiao, who was in active military service, was arrested and tried for the murders.

Wang was subsequently convicted by a military court and executed. But his claims that Su, Liu and Chuang participated in the killings spelled the beginning of the Hsichi Trio's long ordeal.

In 1995 the Supreme Court returned a final verdict, sentencing them to death.

But that “final verdict” turned out to be far from being final, kicking off yet another legal battle on a much larger scale that left the judiciary in utmost embarrassment and a big question mark hanging over the country's legal system.

Five justice ministers — including Ma Ying-jeou, who is now president — refused to sign the orders for the execution of the trio.

The Supreme Court in 1996 held a rare press conference, attended by more than 40 of its judges, to defend the trio's guilty verdict.

Subsequently a retrial by the High Court opened in 2000, and in 2003, the defendants, who had been in custody all the year, were acquitted and released.

Another retrial by the High Court in 2007 convicted them and sentenced them to death again.

But that did not seal their fate. They were found not guilty in a retrial in 2009, and the latest retrial also acquitted them.

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The “Hsichi Trio,” from second left, Liu Bing-lang, Su Chien-ho and Chuang Lin-hsun, along with their lawyers and supporters, stand behind a banner with words declaring that they have been cleared of murder charges, outside the Taiwan High Court yesterday. The High Court returned a final verdict in favor of the defendants, ending a controversial legal battle that had lasted for 21 years.

(CNA)

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