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Family of Dean victim seeks signs of remorse

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- When British fugitive Zain Dean fled Taiwan two years ago, Lin Su-kuei fears that he took something she may never get back — a chance to find closure.

“He never said sorry,” said Lin, the aunt and surrogate mother of Huang Chun-teh, the 32-year-old deliveryman whom Dean was convicted of killing in a hit-and-run. “From the first trial to the second, he kept saying it wasn't his fault.”

Lin, still haunted by her choice to let Huang borrow her scooter on the night of the fatal crash in 2010, is hoping that Dean's extradition hearing in Edinburgh yesterday has brought her family one step closer to justice and maybe a chance to hear an apology.

Remorse, an ever-growing area of research among criminologists, has a profound healing effect on victims and their communities, according to Lennon Chang, a professor at City University of Hong Kong researching Taiwan's restorative justice pilot programs. “Our criminal justice system focuses too much on the criminals.”

Acts of contrition, however, have always posed a notoriously difficult legal tightrope for defendants, as they can often be incriminating, but especially in Taiwan, where some believe the specter of martial law still lingers in courtroom gavels.

Under Taiwan's criminal code, a refusal to repent for a crime, even prior to conviction, can lead to maximum sentences, raising questions about due process. “If a defendant is innocent, why does he or she apologize to the victim?” Chang said.

Dean Advised Not to Apologize

Like most defendants who plead not guilty to a charge, Dean was advised by his attorney Billy Chen not to apologize, “because he would in effect be admitting his guilt,” said human rights activist Linda Gail Arrigo, who believes Dean suffered an unfair trial and that the public was hoodwinked by corrupt cops and “xenophobic” media.

Although the High Court did acknowledge Dean's “verbal” remorse in its guilty verdict in 2012, the judges tacked on two years and seven months to his sentence largely for a “lack of penitence.”

“This is the imperial mentality; if you don't show remorse, if you don't beg the court, they're going to give you a stiffer penalty — this goes back to the martial-law days,” said Arrigo, who had witnessed steely dissidents, such as Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu, recant under the law while fighting for the island's democratization in the 1970s.

Victim's Family

Still, the Huang family's wish for an apology draws from a much simpler well — a belief that there was enough evidence to convict Dean.

In their eyes, the day they learned he fled Taiwan confirmed both his guilt and indifference to their prolonged “mental torture” over an unresolved case that has found no justice and no healing. “My bother's been dead for four years now, and not even an apology?” said Huang's sister, Chia-hui, to The China Post. “If you didn't do it, why did you run away?”

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