Chinese man gets $911,000 payout after he was wrongfully jailed for 25 years

Chinese man gets $911,000 payout after he was wrongfully jailed for 25 years
Liu Zhonglin served a wrongful detention of over 25 years was released and given payout.
PHOTO: Weibo

A Chinese man who was wrongfully jailed for a murder he did not commit has been awarded state compensation of 4.6 million yuan ($910,649) - including a record 1.9 million yuan for "mental harm" caused and 2.5 million yuan for "loss of personal liberty".

Liu Zhonglin, who is now 50, was granted the compensation payout by the Liaoyuan Intermediate People's Court on Monday, news site Thepaper.cn reported.

He is believed to have served the longest period of wrongful detention in China. For each day of his 9,217 days of imprisonment, Liu will receive about 500 yuan in compensation. The figure is just over a quarter of the 16.7 million yuan Lin and his lawyer had sought.

Liu was arrested in October 1990, when he was 22, over the murder of an 18-year-old woman whose body was found in a river at Huimin village in Dongliao county, Jilin, according to court documents.

He was found guilty of killing the woman, Zheng Dianrong, and given a suspended death sentence in 1994 that was later commuted to life in prison. Throughout his jail term, Liu had maintained his innocence.

Liu was freed in January 2016 after a successful retrial in the Jilin High People's Court that started in 2012. He was finally acquitted in April 2018 on the grounds of "insufficient evidence".

Liu told reporters that although he was satisfied with the compensation package, "[he] has already been deprived of his best days".

In an unusual move, the court granted Liu an initial 500,000 yuan in October, one month before the start of the hearing, so that he could buy a property and to improve his quality of life. Liu told Thepaper.cn that he spent the money on a new two-bedroom flat in the city of Liaoyuan.

His legal representative, Qu Zhenhong of Beijing Huayi Law Firm, told the news site that it was a good result within China's state compensation system.

Qu added that the case confirmed the duties of that system and said the initial payment given to Liu set a promising precedent for future wrongful conviction cases.

Beijing Huayi Law Firm is known for its high-profile lawyers who specialise in human rights cases and miscarriages of justice.

But Zhu Xiaoding, a lawyer at Beijing Cailiang Law Firm, did not see Liu's payout as a sign of progress in the legal system for such cases.

"No matter whether it is after the first trial or a retrial, the state is obliged to pay criminal compensation if a defendant is found to be innocent. So I'm not surprised by the result - it would have been determined when Liu Zhonglin was found innocent," Zhu said.

"State compensation for wrongful conviction has clear regulations. The amount for loss of personal liberty, paid for each day of the prison sentence served, is predetermined by the Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate every year according to the annual compensation budget. There may also be an additional amount of compensation for mental harm or other factors."

The compensation ruling comes after another Jilin man, who was wrongfully jailed for 23 years, had his name cleared in December.

After four retrials and four death sentences, Jin Zhehong, 50, was exonerated by the Jilin High People's Court over the 1995 murder of a 20-year-old woman whose body was found in the wilderness, on the grounds that "the evidence was insufficient and the facts were not clear".

His lawyer, Xi Xiangdong, told media that Jin had "repeatedly accused the investigators of using torture to extract confessions out of him". Jin has not yet filed for compensation for his wrongful imprisonment, according to another of his lawyers, Li Jinxing.

China has one of the highest conviction rates in the world at 99.9 per cent in 2016. In comparison, the conviction rate in the US federal court system is 93 per cent.

The Supreme People's Court abolished the use of conviction rates as a performance benchmark in 2014 in the hope that it would lead to fewer miscarriages of justice and reduce the instances of torture and forced confessions.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post. 

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