After being jailed for 12 years and given two death sentences, a farmer was released on Thursday in Henan Province after he was found not guilty in a murder and rape case.
Innocent man freed after 12 years in prison.[Photo/Dahe Daily]
The case of the farmer, Li Huailiang, attracted wide public attention after a piece of an old document was spread online.
It was called a "death sentence guarantee," an agreement reportedly signed between the dead victim's parents and a Henan court to make sure that Li got a death sentence, the Beijing Times reported yesterday.
The murder and rape case dates back to the evening of August 2, 2001, when a 13-year-old girl, Guo Xiaohong, left home to play but never came back. Two days later, the girl's partially nude body was found.
Police believed the girl was murdered and then raped and thrown into the river, the newspaper said.
An investigation found Li, a farmer who lived in the same village as the girl, had visited the crime scene, and police detained him on August 7.
Li was given a 15-year sentence and was ordered to pay 3,000 yuan (US$486) in compensation to the victim's family by the Yexian County court on September 19, 2003. He was found guilty with a supposed admission by Li and circumstantial evidence.
In December 2003, Pingdingshan City Intermediate People's Court overturned the county court's judgment and ruled that the evidence was not clear.
In May 2004, the victim girl's parents, Guo Songzhang and Du Yuhua, signed a paper with the intermediate court, in which the parents asked the court to sentence Li to life imprisonment or a death sentence.
The intermediate court announced that the paper had no legal effect but was just an appeal from the victim's family.
Li said police beat him with a chain to confess. But the court gave Li a death sentence based on the same evidence as the county court had.
Then, in 2005, Henan Province Higher People's Court sent the case back to the intermediate court, which in 2006 gave Li a death sentence with reprieve. That same year, the verdict was again overturned by the higher court.
Li was behind bars until it was heard again on Thursday.
Li's lawyer said a blood sample found on the scene was found to be type O, while the victim had type A blood and Li has type AB.
The lawyer said a footprint was found on the scene but Li was wearing bigger shoes. The court set Li free immediately since he was not guilty, according to the newspaper.