Zhou Qiang: Criminal lawyers' rights should be respected and protected
The country's top judge said on Monday that courts across the country must improve the quality of case hearings and rulings to effectively avoid wrongful convictions and better protect human rights.
"Courts at all levels nationwide must learn from wrongful judgments to uphold justice and prevent innocent people from being wrongfully convicted," said Zhou Qiang, president of the Supreme People's Court.
Zhou made the remarks at the annual work conference of the top court, highlighting the principles that "no punishment for doubtful incidents" and "excluding evidence obtained illegally in handling criminal cases".
"Each court must meet the requirement to punish offenders and free the innocent," he said, urging courts to fight crime and avoid wrongful convictions by strengthening the quality of case hearings.
Criminal lawyers' rights and opinions, meanwhile, should be respected and protected, and courts should increase their efforts to ensure each criminal defendant can be defended by a lawyer, Zhou said.
"The trial must be regarded as the key when we deal with a lawsuit, and some criminal procedures, such as pretrial meetings, the exclusion of illegal evidence and investigations during a case hearing, must also be implemented," he said.
In addition, courts should pay high attention to applications for State compensation from people wrongfully convicted and provide legal aid to them, he said.
"What we will and must do is to uphold the lifeline of justice by strictly implementing criminal procedures and focusing on the quality of case hearings," Zhou said. Chinese courts corrected 39 wrongful convictions involving 78 people over the past five years, the top court said.
On Nov 30, Zhou Yuan, a native of Yining, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, who was originally given a suspended death sentence for intentional injury and committing indecent acts with women about 20 years ago, was found not guilty due to insufficient evidence and unclear facts.
Two months later, Zhou got more than 1.91 million yuan ($303,900) in the State compensation, which includes 1.42 million yuan for his wrongful detention and about 500,000 yuan for psychological damage.
The case is similar to another high-profile wrongful conviction that was corrected by the top court in Liaoning province in 2016.
On Dec 2, 2016, Nie Shubin, from Hebei province, was found not guilty of the rape and murder of a woman due to unclear facts and insufficient evidence. Nie was executed in 1995 at the age of 21. Nie's family received about 2.68 million yuan in compensation.
In June, the top court, with some other judicial authorities, issued a regulation on strictly excluding evidence gained illegally or improperly in criminal cases, in a bid to prevent wrongful convictions at the root.