Parents strove to live long enough to clear son
Zhang Huanzhi, a bereaved mother in her 70s, finally got the not guilty verdict for her son that she awaited.
Her fight for justice began the very moment her son, Nie Shubin, was arrested for murder in 1994. And the confession in 2005 of another man, Wang Shujin, who claimed he was the actual murderer, gave her additional power and courage to continue.
In March 2005, Zhang hired a lawyer and began the legal process to clear the name of her son. Soon after the appeal, the provincial Political and Legal Affairs Committee in Hebei said it would set up a joint investigative group with other judicial departments in the province to look into the case.
However in the decade since, no positive decisions were made in Nie’s case.
It was not until December 2014, when the Supreme People’s Court, the country’s top court, ordered a retrial of Nie's case in Shandong High People’s Court that the family found hope in their excruciating struggle for justice.
Nie’s mother said she was relieved when the top court designated the court in Shandong to review her son's case.
She had visited the Hebei High People’s Court multiple times since 2005 requesting that her son’s case be reviewed, but always in vain.
“I’m more than thrilled,” Zhang said in an interview with Xinhua News Agency in 2014. “The decision is a reflection that the country’s judicial system is improving.”
“My husband and I often say to ourselves we have to strive to live until the day my son's name is cleared,” the mother said.
“I have so much regret because I did not even get to see my son before he was killed,” Zhang said. “The only thing I could do was to try to prove his innocence to ease my pain.”
Nie’s father, Nie Xuesheng, said on Friday that it was the happiest day in more than 20 years since his son was executed.
The father attempted suicide the day after he learned of his son’s execution from a staff member of the prison grocery shop on April 28, 1995. He had come to visit his son and give him a shirt.
The suicide attempt left him
the mother of Nie Shubin, who was executed for rape and murder, talks on Friday to the media outside the court in Shenyang, Liaoning province, that overturned his conviction.
paralyzed in one of his legs, so his wife made most of the trips to the court asking for a retrial.
The father told Beijing News that he accepted the apology from the Provincial High People's Court in Hebei on Friday.
“Justice delayed is still justice,” he said.
Xia Daohu, one of the judges for the case, confirmed that the compensation application process had begun. But he did not say how much money a litigant can receive in such a case.
“The compensation will be provided in accordance with the State Compensation Law, and the final amount will consider how many days Nie had been wrongfully detained, as well as the mental damage,” Xia said.
Xia also said an accountability investigation of police and judicial officers who were involved has started, but did not elaborate.
Li Shuting, the family’s lawyer, said: “Rights of lawyers, including reading legal materials and sharing opinions with the court, were well protected. I’m also happy to end my work with such a result.”
Nie, a worker in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, was sentenced to death and executed in 1995 in the rape and murder of a woman the year before. He was 21 when he was executed.
The case first came to the public’s attention in 2005, when Wang Shujin was detained for rape and murder in other cases. Wang confessed that he was the actual culprit in Nie’s case.
Since then, Nie’s case had been reinvestigated. His name is well-known across the country, and any development of the reinvestigation made headlines.
His case has been handled by Hebei Provincial High People’s Court and Shandong Provincial High People’s Court. Both courts failed to give a final verdict.
Ding Hui, president of the law school at Liaoning Normal University
On June 15, the top court designated the Second Circuit Court to retry the case.
Ding Hui, president of the law school at Liaoning Normal University, said: “I’m a mother as well. I fully understand Zhang when I saw her crying in the courtroom.
“Meanwhile, I applaud that justice was upheld by the top court. It is so important to fulfill the rule of law in our country.”
Mo Hongxian, a law professor at Wuhan University, said the case is a milestone in Chinese criminal law research, adding that the top court highlighted the principle of no punishment for doubtful cases in Nie’s case.
“The case could serve as a guide when judges tackle other similar cases,” she said.
Both professors said that Nie’s case also points to an urgent need to establish a mechanism to avoid wrongful convictions.
“How to ensure evidence is collected legally and verdicts are made without interference is also highly important,” Ding said.
Fu Ying, chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress, attends the China-US forum on Thursday held by New York University and the China-US Exchange Foundation at the NYU Law School.