Case goes for­ward even though statute of lim­i­ta­tions has ex­pired

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai zhouwent­ing@ chi­

The Supreme Peo­ple’s Procu­ra­torate has ap­proved the pros­e­cu­tion of three men in Fu­jian prov­ince ac­cused of killing a store­keeper dur­ing a rob­bery 26 years ago, even though the statute of lim­i­ta­tions has ex­pired.

It is the sec­ond time in two months that author­i­ties have used their power to make an ex­cep­tion to the law, which states that sus­pects will not be pros­e­cuted if a guilty ver­dict can­not be se­cured be­tween the time a crime was com­mit­ted and the end of a sen­tence they likely would have re­ceived.

For ex­am­ple, for a crime that could re­sult in a life sen­tence, the limit is 20 years, since life sen­tences are com­monly re­duced.

A court in the same prov­ince sen­tenced one man to life in prison and his ac­com­plice to 10 years in June af­ter they con­fessed to an­other deadly rob­bery in the mid-1990s.

Both cases come af­ter the SPP and the Min­istry of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity is­sued a no­tice in late April urg­ing po­lice to pur­sue sus­pects wanted for cer­tain crimes even if the statute of lim­i­ta­tions had passed.

The doc­u­ment listed more than 100 sit­u­a­tions in which a per­son can be pros­e­cuted af­ter the time limit — for ex­am­ple, if they are ac­cused of con­ceal­ing or de­stroy­ing a body af­ter an ac­ci­dent, adding sub­stan­dard in­gre­di­ents to in­fant for­mula or en­gag­ing in abuse or threats that re­sult in some­one com­mit­ting sui­cide.

“The law al­ready says sus­pects can be pros­e­cuted with ap­proval from the SPP, but it’s vague and usu­ally ig­nored by grass­roots po­lice de­part­ments and pros­e­cu­tors,” said Yi Shenghua, a crim­i­nal at­tor­ney with Yingke Law Firm in Beijing.

The three men to stand trial — iden­ti­fied as Wang, Zhou and Song — are ac­cused of stab­bing to death the owner of a cloth­ing store dur­ing a rob­bery in Fu’an in March 1991. The at­tack­ers es­caped, but po­lice found fin­ger­prints at the scene.

In De­cem­ber, Wang was de­tained on sus­pi­cion of an­other rob­bery, and po­lice said his fin­ger­prints matched those found al­most three decades ago. Wang named the other two sus­pects, who were taken into cus­tody in Jan­uary, po­lice said.

The duo con­victed in June, who killed a gro­cery store owner in San­ming in 1994 in or­der to steal 480 yuan ($71), sur­ren­dered to po­lice in Fe­bru­ary last year, ac­cord­ing to Fu­jian’s pros­e­cut­ing author­ity.

Yi, the at­tor­ney, pre­dicted China will see more prose­cu­tions for crimes in which the statute of lim­i­ta­tions has ex­pired.

“If there was a very se­ri­ous case that left psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma to the whole of so­ci­ety three decades ago, peo­ple won’t for­get it,” he said. “If we fi­nally find the sus­pect be­cause of im­proved means of in­ves­ti­ga­tion or other rea­sons, he or she should still re­ceive pun­ish­ment. That will help de­ter wrong­do­ers.”

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