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September 20, 2017

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Prosecution at fault in unsolved rape, murder case

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A high-profile, brutal case of the rape and murder of a 5-year-old girl in 1996 came to a surprising conclusion in March this year, when the Supreme Court handed out a not-guilty verdict to a man who was believed to be the true killer.

On March 19, the Supreme Court ruled that Hsu Jung-chou (許榮洲) was not responsible for the murder, even though Hsu confessed to the crime on seven separate occasions.

The Supreme Court said that it could not accept Hsu's confessions, which have been contradictory, because he is mentally challenged and has difficulty expressing himself.

Furthermore, a bloody palm print left at the crime scene, the main evidence prosecutors used to indict Hsu, was lost.

The court said that it has no way of comparing Hsu's palm print with the lost evidence, citing the lack of key evidence and flawed investigation as the reasons behind its decision.

The final verdict came as a shock to many who believed that Hsu was the one responsible for the 18-year-old case, which led to the wrongful execution of Chiang Kuo-ching (江國慶) in 1997.

The ruling basically indicates that neither Hsu nor Chiang are responsible for the rape and murder. In other words, the Supreme Court's acquittal left the question of who the real murderer is unanswered.

Before taking a look at the judiciary's problems, which resulted in the above-mentioned problem, we should briefly review the case itself.

1996 Rape, Murder Case

On Sept. 12, 1996, a 5-year-girl surnamed Hsieh (謝) was found dead in a trench outside a restaurant at a military command complex in Daan District.

Forensic experts determined that she was murdered.

The incident immediately sparked nationwide outrage, not only due to the brutal nature of the case itself, but also because the victim's body was found on a military base, a serious blow to the armed forces' image.

Under tremendous pressure to solve the case, only a month after Hsieh's body was found, military investigators arrested airman Chiang Kuo-ching (江國慶), who was then serving on the same base as a private.

Saying that Chiang had confessed, the Air Force locked up the young man, then 21, on homicide charges.

According to military prosecutors, Chiang saw the little girl watching TV alone in a restaurant on the base. He then led the girl to a nearby restroom and smothered her while trying to stifle her cries.

On Aug. 13, 1997, Chiang was executed despite his repeated protestations of innocence and accusations that he was forced to make a confession by military investigators.

A dramatic turn came 13 years later when the Control Yuan reopened the case and discovered that the soldier had indeed been wrongfully executed.

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