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Case of convicted child killer reopened after 25 years

By Du Juan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-22 08:55

A court in eastern China has reopened the case of a convicted child killer after 25 years because of "obvious doubts" about the validity of his confession, the man's attorney said on Thursday.

Zhang Yuhuan, 51, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve in 1995 for the murder of two young brothers from his village in Nanchang, Jiangxi province.

The boys - age 4 and 6 - were reported missing in October 1993. Their bodies were discovered the next day in a reservoir in Zhangjiacun village. They had been strangled with a rope.

Police quickly identified Zhang, the victims' neighbor, as a suspect and took him into custody. According to the investigating officers, he confessed to the killings twice during interrogations - on Nov 3 and 4 that year - but he later recanted, saying the confessions were made under duress.

He was convicted of intentional homicide and sentenced in January 1995 at Nanchang Intermediate People's Court.

The Jiangxi High People's Court overturned the verdict two months later and ordered a retrial, which was eventually held in November 2001, more than six years after the killings. The court in that trial also found Zhang guilty. A second appeal was rejected.

However, the high court has now reopened the case to re-examine the evidence, according to Zhang's attorney, Wang Fei.

"Usually, courts don't reinvestigate a case unless there are obvious doubts and problems," he said. "The verdicts in this case were based on a severe lack of evidence."

A spokesman for the Jiangxi High People's Court declined to comment on the case when contacted on Thursday.

Wang said the conviction had three main problems. First, there was no material evidence to directly prove Zhang had committed the killings or to rule out other possibilities. Second, his confessions contained inconsistencies. Third, the high court did not provide a defense lawyer for Zhang's appeal, which was a procedural error.

He said he expects the high court's investigation to take three to six months. Based on its findings, the court could order another retrial.

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