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Lawmakers query justification of death penalty for 'murderer'

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Opposition lawmakers yesterday questioned the justification of applying the death sentence to Cheng Hsing-tse, who was sentenced to death for killing a police officer in 2002 and whose sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2006, saying that quite a few key evidence materials favorable to Cheng were strangely missing during the investigation process.

Lawmaker Chang Hsiao-feng of the People First Party and lawmakers You Mei-nu and Cheng Li-chun of the Democratic Progressive Party raised the question at a press conference held yesterday morning at the Legislative Yuan, together with Cheng's lawyer Lo Bing-cheng and representatives of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty.

The lawmakers called for the judicial system to hold a new trial for the case and clear some related doubts, and Cheng's lawyers asked the Control Yuan to investigate whether the police had hidden related evidence favorable to Cheng.

Cheng was arrested on Jan. 5, 2002 and accused of killing a police officer, named Su Hsien-pi, during a gunfight at a KTV house in Fengyuan, Taichung, Central Taiwan. He was sentenced to death by the Taichung District Court on Nov. 18, 2002. The case bounced back and forth between the High Court and the Supreme Court for appeals and retrials until Cheng's death sentence was finalized on May 25, 2006 by the Supreme Court.

Lawyers said that Cheng had consistently testified that he was tortured by the police to extract a confession, adding that no investigations into the torture allegations had taken place and no material evidence has been found linking Cheng to the crime. They claimed that there were many other irregularities with the investigation.

The lawyers said that when reviewing document files, they found a picture showing the police were videotaping the crime scene, but the videotape was not included in the files. They wondered if the police had intentionally concealed the videotape.

At the press conference, Lawmaker Chang Hsiao-feng also noted that when visiting the Taipchung Police Department to learn more about Cheng's case, she found that some evidence failed to be coded in order. Cheng stressed his innocence in the case when talking to her, Chang continued.

Lawmaker Cheng Li-chun said that many signs showed that Cheng's death sentence was not based on solid evidence, and therefore a new trial should be held lest Cheng should become another Chiang Kuo-ching, who was wrongly executed in 1997 after being tortured to confess his alleged crime of raping and killing a little girl in October 1996.

Cheng's lawyers had applied for extraordinary appeals 22 times, but the requests were rejected each time by the Supreme Prosecutors Office.

A spokesman for the office said the appeals had been rejected mainly because they failed to meet the criteria as set by law.

Meanwhile, the National Police Agency said that the police investigation panel did take pictures of the crime site in Cheng's murder case but didn't record a videotape. The agency said that it will fully respect the final ruling issued by the judicial system.

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Lo Bing-cheng, a lawyer for death row inmate Cheng Hsing-tse, releases a picture at a press conference held yesterday showing police officers videotaping the crime scene. Lo said ...

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