In a miscarriage of justice with a rare happy ending, a man has been cleared of a murder charge and released from jail on Monday after 21 years inside.
Having received a suspended death sentence for the murder of a woman in Hainan in 1994, the now 53-year-old Chen Man was exonerated by a Zhejiang court on the grounds of insufficient evidence — two decades after his wrongful conviction: “His role in the murder is not clear and the original judgement lacks evidence, therefore, the guilty verdict cannot be confirmed.”
Yesterday he finally walked free from Haikou’s Meilan Prison, just in time to celebrate Chinese New Year with family in his Sichuan hometown.
SCMP reports that Chen even received a formal bow of apology from Hainan judge Fu Qin, on behalf of the court responsible for his wrongful sentence — and was reportedly nothing but gracious about it.
“He said he was sorry for all those years Chen spent in jail, and Chen replied: ‘It’s OK,'” shared Chen’s lawyer, Wang Wanqiong. “I think Chen also meant that the one who apologized was not in charge when the case took place. He’s a very kind person and felt nothing but joy today.”
After Wang filed a petition in Beijing last year, a protest was lodged that eventually led to the Supreme People’s Court ordering a retrial. Both the prosecution and defense at the Zhejiang court asked for Chen’s exoneration.
Wang has revealed that Chen was really tortured into confessing back then: “He was strangled until he almost suffocated and his joints were beaten with sticks and steel rods.”
But Chen has supposedly somehow forgiven the officials who screwed up both their jobs and his life: “Chen said those people should be held responsible, but he had no hatred towards them and believed it should be left to the law to decide,” shared Wang. Nonetheless, Chen does plan to apply for compensation at some point.
Beijing has in recent times been making efforts to get its justice system together, but this is apparently the first case of a wrongful conviction that warrants any celebration.
It was also announced yesterday that 27 officials had been punished for the wrongful conviction and execution of a teenage boy two decades ago. Their punishment? Demerits on their record.
[Images via NetEase]