Doubts over death sentence should delay its execution

Updated: 2016-10-24 08:19


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Doubts over death sentence should delay its execution

A gavel in a court. [Photo/IC]

Jia Jinglong is to be executed anytime soon, after he and his attorney were reportedly informed of the Supreme People's Court's approval of his death sentence.

We are not in the position to call a halt. Yet we feel strongly that the order must not be carried out. Not because social media are rife with cries against the ruling. But because the circumstances are anything but normal, and there are some outstanding questions that need to be properly answered. Legal experts, from professors to lawyers, deem the sentence problematic.

Jia shot and killed the head of his village in 2013, and he was convicted of murder. His death sentence is controversial, though, for the murder was a reaction to the ruthless, illicit forced demolition of his home that the victim allegedly masterminded.

Legal professionals have argued that Jia qualifies for a lesser sentence, a reprieve for instance, as he tried to turn himself in and confess to police afterwards.

Considering both the judicial authorities' new emphasis on prudence in applying the death penalty, and the reasonable doubts surrounding the sentence, we urge the court to demonstrate discretion, and avoid the double tragedy to which we are dangerously close.

Whatever happens, Jia's case should not be allowed to slip away as if it were just another regular criminal offense. Because it is not. Outside the courtroom, there are pricey lessons to be learnt.

"I am a victim...from the very beginning," Jia told the first-instance court in self-defense. "I would not have embarked on such a road of no return had there been a way out."

The murder took place months after his home was demolished by force. He called the police in the vain hope of stopping the demolition. He tried to negotiate for compensation afterwards. He lodged complaints to local authorities. He found himself helpless, hopeless, with no way to have justice done.

As in many similar cases, Jia used to be an ordinary citizen concerned primarily about living a normal life. Like others who ended up desperate, vengeful and hurting themselves and others to have their injustices noticed, Jia would probably not have acted as he did if his loss had been properly taken care of.

When residents are victimized by those who have power in their hand, they should not be deprived of the hope of having their wrongs addressed and justice delivered.