Prosecuting lawyers

When lawyer Yang Zaixin decided to defend an accused murderer he knew he was risking his own liberty. 

Before he started to investigate his client’s case he gave his wife the phone numbers of advocate lawyers, he got his partners to swear they would back him up if needed, and he decided he would video tape all the witness interviews he conducted.

Despite the precautions, Yang’s worst fears came true when he and three other lawyers from different law firms in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, were arrested on June 14.

Held for two weeks without charge and forbidden to contact their own legal representation, Yang ended up being the only lawyer charged and he remains in custody.

Yang is among a number of defense lawyers who have been tripped up by Article 306 of China’s criminal code. The broad and sweeping law states that any lawyer or defendant who threatens or instigates a witness to change their testimony will be detained and may face a prison term from three years to seven years.

An investigation by the All China Lawyers Association (ACLA), China’s equivalent of a non-independent bar association, indicates that from 1997 to 2007, 108 lawyers have been charged with violating Article 306. 

One of the more famous cases involving a lawyer charged after vigorously defending his client centered Li Zhuang. The Beijing lawyer defended gangsters who were charged in the wake of Chongqing’s anti-corruption campaign. Li was arrested and charged with “inciting the defendant to fake testimony.”

Li’s trial included dramatic testimony from his former client.  Li was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison.  After a storm of protest from the legal community and others, Li was released in April after serving only 18 months.

The current case against Yang has gained widespread sympathy from lawyer advocates because of the apparent gaping holes Yang found in the prosecution’s case against his client.

Yang found new witnesses who gave his client, and the three other men charged with murder, airtight alibis. Yang’s client claimed he was coerced into giving a confession that included details of how the murder was committed, which are not supported by forensic evidence. The men confessed they had stabbed the victim to death while the autopsy failed to show the victim suffered knife wounds and determined that the cause of death was a blow to the head. The police also contend the murderers abducted the victim in a taxi, which would have required six people to be bundled into one car. The police never called a taxi driver to testify in support of their supposition.

Yang’s findings and the defense of his client at the murder trial ended with the court determining there was insufficient evidence for a murder conviction.

The murder case

The procurator told the court that Huang Huanhai had been murdered and his body was found floating near a dock on Nov. 19, 2009, five days after his death. They contend he was murdered after a brawl in Beihai, Guangxi and his body had been dumped in the sea.

Two weeks after Huang’s body was recovered police arrested Yang’s client Pei Jinde, and three other co-conspirators.

A year later, the men were tried twice in September and October 2010. Yang’s contradictory evidence meant both trials ended with the court unable to reach a guilty verdict.  A third trial has been scheduled for July which now includes a fifth accused who was arrested after the failed second trial.

Chen Zhanbing, a detective with the Beihai police, told a news conference on June 21 that the contradiction in the men’s confessions — in which they say they stabbed Huang while the forensic evidence showed no knife wounds on the body — can be explained by the fact that the body had decomposed.

Chen also claims the suspects were coerced by a lawyer to recant their confessions. As well, he maintains that the three witnesses confessed– after they were detained by police– to being coached by a lawyer to give false testimony in court.

Insufficient evidence

“The evidence provided by the police is not sufficient for conviction,” Zhu Mingyong, a Beijing-based lawyer who will help defend Pei at his third trial which is set to begin on July 25, told the Global Times.

“Although the police claim they have new evidence, as far as I know it’s still mainly the confessions from the defendants and witnesses, which contradict each other,” he said.

“We will see whether the police will allow the three witnesses to appear for cross-examination,” he said referring to the witnesses who provided Pei with an alibi but later recanted after they were detained.

Meanwhile, Yang languishes in custody with no trial date set to hear the charges

Source: Globle Times

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