« Five years and $5 million in capital pre-trial time and expense for Washington mass killing | Main | "The Innocent Defendant’s Dilemma: An Innovative Empirical Study of Plea Bargaining’s Innocence Problem" »

June 3, 2012

Taiwan struggling with death penalty administration

A helpful reader alerted me to this intriguing new BBC article concerning controversies over the operation of the death penalty in Taiwan.  The article is headlined "Death penalty dilemma dividing Taiwan," and here are excerpts:

In 1997 a Taiwanese soldier was executed for murder, despite there being no evidence against him.  The authorities last year admitted he was innocent and compensated his family, but legal experts warn a similar tragedy could happen again under the current judicial system.

Chiang Kuo-ching was convicted of raping and killing a five-year-old girl.  He was one of two soldiers who worked in the same building as the girl's mother, and had failed a lie detector test because he was scared.  He insisted he was innocent, but was executed at the age of 21.

After a long campaign by his parents, investigators reopened the case in 2010 and indicted a man with a history of sexual offences last year.  The government admitted Mr Chiang was tortured into confessing and late last year apologised to his family.

Despite this alarming case, Taiwan's judges continue to sentence defendants to death with no material evidence, such as fingerprints or DNA, experts say.  Instead, they rely mainly on confessions or co-defendants' statements, and routinely accept as evidence police interrogations that are not recorded or videotaped, even though the law requires recordings to prevent police torture, lawyers and others say.

"The problem is even though on paper judges are supposed to follow the principle of innocent until proven guilty, in practice many don't," said Lin Feng-cheng, head of Taiwan's Judicial Reform Foundation.  "They and the society want to quickly solve a case and bring justice to the victims' families," he said....

From 2006 to 2009, no executions were carried out, as the government tried to bring Taiwan closer to the international trend of abolishing the death penalty.   But the moratorium ended in 2010 after former Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng inadvertently drew attention to it, by publicly stating that she would not sign off on any executions.

Facing public pressure, President Ma Ying-jeou replaced Ms Wang with Tseng Yung-fu, who promptly ordered four people be executed, and another five last year.  Taiwan's judges — most of whom favour the death penalty — meanwhile sentenced 15 people to death at the Supreme Court level last year, the highest number in the past decade....

Taiwan's government says it wants to eventually abolish the death penalty, but not until it can convince the public.  Surveys show that more than 70% of the population favours it. "At present, the majority of the people in Taiwan are still opposed to the abolition of the death penalty and therefore we think it is inappropriate for the government to do away with the death penalty right now," said Chen Wen-chi, an adviser and spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice....

There are 57 inmates currently on death row.  At least one of them, and four others sentenced to death but still undergoing appeals, were convicted with no material evidence, Lin Feng-cheng said.  "The mistakes made in Chiang Kuo-ching's case are typical of mistakes still made in Taiwan," said Mr Lin.  "We believe if we continue the death penalty, the risks are very high."

June 3, 2012 at 10:43 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Taiwan struggling with death penalty administration:


Sounds to me like anyone and EVERYONE involved in his trial from the cop on the beat to the judge at any appeals lvl should be dragged before the WORLD COURT and executed for MURDER!

of course this could NEVER happen here! This govt will NEVER admit it killed an innocent! and in fact would do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to bury it from ever coming to light!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 4, 2012 12:57:13 AM

But Bill Otis likes the death penalty.

He "thinks" 16-year-olds should be subject to death sentences.

The fact that innocents get convicted and sentenced to death does not give him pause. He is the super duper death penalty cheerleader.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Jun 4, 2012 1:24:58 AM

And I suppose you're a cheerleader for murderers and rapists getting away with the crime? Grow up and leave the hyperbole somewhere else.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Jun 4, 2012 2:13:20 AM

:: "In 1997 a Taiwanese soldier was executed for murder, despite there being no evidence against him." ::

Not our problem here; our failing is the liberation of admitted and evidentially proven murders from execution due to philosophy.

"There is no such thing as a crime as the word is generally understood...I do not believe
that people are in jail because they deserve to be. They are in jail simply because
they cannot avoid it on account of circumstances which are entirely beyond
their control and for which they are in no way responsible."
~~Clarence Darrow, 1902

Posted by: Adamakis | Jun 4, 2012 9:00:53 AM

Mmmm, troll likey tasty food. Keep coming. Thanky.

Posted by: Anon | Jun 4, 2012 10:54:32 AM

Easy fix. Wrongful execution - execute the lead prosecutor for murderous incompetence. Capital cases will receive the diligence they deserve.

Posted by: d263945 | Jun 4, 2012 1:27:54 PM

d263945 --

"Easy fix. Wrongful execution - execute the lead prosecutor for murderous incompetence. Capital cases will receive the diligence they deserve."

Would you suggest that we execute the jurors as well? The judge? The appellate judges? Those who worked in the execution chamber? The cops who investigated the case? Why just stop with the prosecutor?

While we're at it, let's consider an erroneous acquittal in a capital case. When that happens, and the defendant does it again, should his defense lawyer get executed?

You get the point. Well, maybe you don't, but others will. There are life-threatening risks in either direction, so stomping one's feet demanding an error-free system is nothing more than juvenile ranting.

There is no consensus proof that we have executed a single innocent person in the modern era, but unarguable proof that criminals we legally could have executed, but didn't, have gone on to kill again, in prison and on the outside. What this suggests is that we are presently too careful, not too careless, in administering the DP.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 4, 2012 2:56:29 PM

'There is no consensus proof that we have executed a single innocent person in the modern era'

keep repeating it enough times and maybe everyone might actually start to believe it, even more amusing, why don't you provide proof to skeptics that in fact its never happened as you claim

Posted by: Brit | Jun 4, 2012 7:52:17 PM

Brit --

You have merely to cite the case in the post-Greg era (now 36 years old) in which there is proof accepted by a consensus (consensus does not mean advocacy websites with a predetermined point of view) that we have executed an innocent person.

Roger Keith Coleman? Sure. Troy Davis? Right -- only read the district court's 172 page opinion and account for the fact that, after it was issued, Davis couldn't scramble up a single vote on the same Supreme Court that had ordered the extraordinary remedy of a district court remand to assess the actual innocence claim.

CONSENSUS proof. Let's see it. Should I wait?

In the meantime, could you suggest some fact-based reason we should not have executed McVeigh or the hundreds of others where no sensate person doubted factual guilt?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 4, 2012 10:06:15 PM

we don't need websites or courts to tell us at least ONE has been murdered by the state while innocent!

The FACTS tell us that! if only 5% of all criminal convictions are FACTUALLY innocent! and that same number is present in thsoe convicted and executed ...well GUESS WHAT! we HAVE killed an innocent!

I don't need to prove it's not happened! Sorry under our constution in any interaction between the state and it's citizens the BURDEN is ON THE STATE!

I admit it was never thought to be used in this type of situation but when it was written the founding fathers could never have even begun to imagine what a big bunch of habitual lieing sacks of shit would now be running this country from the whitehouse right down to the cops on the beat!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 5, 2012 7:50:53 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB