Remember the Shaanxi Temple Axe Murderer? You know, the one that killed eleven people aged 12-62 at a Taoist temple with an ax, dismembered them and fed some of their choice parts, including eyeballs, to the spotted dog that accompanied him? He was sentenced to death on October 19. For some good background on this man and his life, check out what ESWN had to say.
There’s a new development in this case. The main article in this week’s edition of Southern Weekend says that there’s a psychiatrist/criminal psychologist called Liu Xiwei (刘锡伟) who has studied mentally ill people for decades and found plenty of people in jail who were certifiably nuts and therefore could have gotten off scot free or with a lighter sentence had they plead insanity and the court agreed.
The problem is that Qiu’s lawyers didn’t even think about entering that plea, because it would be unthinkable to ask for any kind of clemency for man who brutally murdered 11 people. They say it goes back to the traditional idea of a life for a life, rooted deep in the Chinese psyche. You can’t not give the guy a bullet in the head. Makes sense right? Think about Saddam Hussein — you can’t not hang the guy, not after he trained those pilots to fly into the twin towers in New York and built those drones that would fly over the Atlantic Ocean and spread anthrax to usher in apocalypse before firing WMDs into major population centers because he hates fuckin’ freedom.
So this was a heinous crime, but let’s face it, this lawyer — he ain’t no Johnnie Cochran (god rest his soul). But you can’t just blame the lawyer, either. The system is such that the court has to request a test of the accused’s sanity. Enter Liu Xiwei, who has been studying this case in detail and has consulted with various criminologists and psychologists around China. Not everyone agrees with him — they seem to agree that Qiu was bat-shit crazy but not necessarily insane in the sense required by the 18th article of China’s Criminal Law. Somehow there is always a line implicit in the phrase “he knows not what he is doing” (with apologies to Jesus) that has to be crossed before you introduce someone to a firing squad.
Why is Liu Xinwei on a mission to defend this killer? This interview makes clear that he’s not out to prove that Qiu is innocent, but is concerned about how justice is or isn’t meted out to the criminally insane. With the recently passed law that every death sentence has to be reviewed by China’s highest court, the hope is that China’s judicial system is making some progress. The rub is that there is probably no one who will even allow Qiu to get the proper tests. There’s going to be an appeal, but the case really hinges on the (in)sanity of Qiu.
According to Chinese law, it is possible that if Qiu is found insane that he could get a reduced sentence or no sentence at all. In which case he could work on writing a book titled If I Had Been Sane When I Did It …
Photo of Qiu Xinghua smiling like a deranged lunatic from Southern Weekend