Yunnan murder case is headed for retrial

BEIJING – Li Changkui, a farmer who raped and murdered a teenager before killing her younger brother, is to be retried following a public outcry over the decision to revoke his death sentence.

The announcement on Sunday by the Yunnan provincial high people’s court comes four months after its judges gave Li a two-year reprieve, reducing an earlier punishment handed down by a lower court.

The reprieve decision effectively means a life sentence, the usual outcome in China when a death penalty is delayed.

A date for the retrial is yet to be set, said Tian Chengyou, the court’s deputy director.

“We want the death sentence restored,” said Wang Yong, a Beijing-based attorney who is representing the victims’ family.

During Li’s trial at Zhaotong city’s intermediate people’s court last July, judges heard how the defendant murdered Wang Jiafei, 19, and 3-year-old Wang Jiahong over a feud with the Wang family.

Prosecutors said Li visited his neighbors’ home in Qiaojia county, Yunnan, in May 2009 and got into an argument with Wang Jiafei. 

He raped her and beat her to death with a hoe, before killing her brother by smashing him into the ground.

He was sentenced to death and ordered to pay 30,000 yuan ($4,600) in compensation to Wang Tingli, the victims’ father.

Yet, that punishment was reduced in March this year after the high people’s court said it took into account the fact that Li had turned himself in to police and volunteered to compensate the Wang family. The compensation order remained unchanged.

The change in the sentence drew strong protests from the Wang family, who claimed Li only surrendered to authorities because he had nowhere to hide. In addition, they allege he was initially unwilling to pay compensation.

The case also drew huge public attention, with many people criticizing the decision to withdraw the death sentence.

On July 5, the high people’s court said it would re-examine the ruling.

As of Sunday, the Wang family had received almost 50,000 yuan in donations from supporters, said Wang Tingli.

“We must have the death penalty (for Li),” he added.

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