Hubei Court Formally Clears She Xianglin of Murder Conviction

May 9, 2005

On April 13, the Jingshan People’s Court in Hubei province formally declared She Xianglin innocent of murder charges after a retrial of the case. In 1994, the court convicted Mr. She of murdering his wife and sentenced him to death, a sentence that was later commuted to 15 years’ imprisonment (see related stories here and here). In late March, his wife suddenly returned to their Hubei village. Although Mr. She’s lawyer reported difficulties collecting evidence for the case and applied for a delay in the hearing, the resolution of the case, which has caused a national outcry, was never seriously in doubt. Upon hearing news of the verdict, Supreme People’s Court Vice-President Wang E’Xiang reportedly declared that courts must serve as the "final line of defense" in ensuring procedural and substantive justice. The China Daily, perhaps in an effort to dampen criticism of the legal system, noted that Mr. She was "not bitter" and quoted him as saying "I always believe the law is just even if I was wrongly jailed for a long time."

Mr. She’s case now moves to the state compensation phase. In its ruling, the Jingshan court declared that Mr. She is eligible to receive state compensation for his wrongful conviction. However, the case appears to have sparked a debate, however, about whether Mr. She will be compensated for emotional damages stemming from his long imprisonment. Wang E’Xiang, in a vaguely worded statement, suggested that Mr. She might be eligible for such compensation. But Chinese legal experts argue that China’s State Compensation Law provides no basis for compensation of emotional damages and emphasize that Mr. She’s case highlights the need to amend the law to provide for such damages.