The Supreme People's Court's Opinion on Establishing and Completing Work Mechanisms for Preventing Unjust, False and Wrongly-Decided Criminal Cases
The following opinons on the people's courts establishment and completion of work mechanisms for the prevention of unjust, false and wrongfully decided criminal cases on the basis of the "Criminal Procedure Law of the P.R.C." and relevant judicial interpretations and regulations, so as to correctly punish crimes, respect and preserve human rights, and realize judicial fairness:
I. Adhere to the fundamental principles of criminal proceedure, establish a scientific conception of justice.
1. Adhere to the principle of respecting and safeguarding human rights. Respect the central role of defendants, preserve defendants' right to a defense and other procedural rights, ensure that innocent people are not criminally prosecuted.
2. Adhere to the principle of independent exercise of judicial power in accordance with law. Facts must be the basis, with law as their measure. Judgments that violate the law cannot be made in response to stirred-up public opinion, parties petitioning and causing a commotion, local 'stability maintenance' or other such pressures.
3. Adhere to the principle of procedural justice. Consciously abide by the relevant provisions of criminal procedure laws, try cases in strict accordance with legal procedures and ensure accurate and effective enforcement of the law.
4. Adhere to the principle of open trials. Follow the law to ensure the parties' procedural rights and the public's right to know; follow the law to make the trial process and judgment documents public.
5. Adhere to the principle of evidence-based judgments. Evidence must be the basis for affirming case facts. Evidence shall be reviewed and affirmed in accordance with statutory procedures. The standard of proof for affirming that a defendant is guilty shall be that evidence is credible and sufficient.
II. Strictly implement the statutory standard of proof and strengthen mechanisms for the review of evidence
6. The principal of non-punishment for cases-in-doubt should be adhered to in cases where the evidence is insufficient to reach a verdict, and the law should be followed to announce that the defendant is not-guilty; a judgment that 'leaves room for error' must not be handed down.
Where evidence for conviction is credible and sufficient but the evidence impacting sentencing is still in question, it shall be handled in a way beneficial to the defendant at sentencing.
Where in a death penalty case, there is insufficient evidence to affirm the facts calling for the application of the death penalty against the defendant, a death sentence must not be given.
7. Emphasize evidence and investigative research to truly change the notion and practice of 'the supremacy of confessions' ; focus on the review and utilization of physical evidence. Where there is only a confession from the defendant and no other evidence, the defendant cannot be found be guilty.
8. Defendants' confessions extracted by the use of torture or other illegal methods such as subjecting them to cold, hunger , sunlight, heat, or fatigue during interrogation, shall be excluded.
Except for in emergency circumstances requiring interrogation at the scene, confessions obtained during questions outside the designated case-handling area, confessions obtained through an interrogation in which an audiovisual recording was not conducted, as well as confessions where it cannot be ruled out that they were illegally obtained, shall be excluded.
9. Fingerprints, blood stains, semen traces, hair and other such evidence left at the scene that might be related to the crime, which have have not been appraised by methods such as fingerprint or DNA evaluation as matching corresponding samples from the defendant or victim, must not be evidence upon which the verdict is based. Items such as those involved in the case and tools used in the crime, for which the source has not been verified through methods suchs as identifications or appraisals, must not be evidence upon which the verdict is based.
In cases resulting in the loss of a life, whether the victim's identity has been affirmed through methods such as identification by relatives, fingerprint evaluation or DNA evaluation shall be reviewed.
III. Truly adhere to the statutory procedures and strengthen trial mechanisms
10. Pretrial conferences shall encapsulate the areas of dispute in the facts and evidence. Evidence to which the prosecution or defense has objections shall be the focus of investigation at court; where there are no objections, appropriately simplify the presentation and examination of evidence.
11. Courtroom hearings shall be the center of trials. Factual evidence is investigated in the courtroom, conviction and sentencing are debated in the courtroom, and judgment conclusions take shape in the courtroom.
12. Evidence that has not been presented at court, identified, examined or otherwise verified through courtroom investigation procedures must not serve as the basis of a conviction.
Evidence collected through the employ of technical investigation measures that has not been verified through courtroom investigation procedures must not be the basis for a verdict, except where this might endanger the personal safety of relevant persons or might cause other serious consequences so that the people's court will review and verify it outside the courtroom in accordance with its authority.
13. Where witnesses who should appear in court to testify in accordance with law refuse to appear in court or appear but refuse to testify with no legitimate reason, if there is no way to confirm the veracity of their pretrial testimony, it must not be the basis of a verdict.
14. Ensure the defendants' and defenders' procedural rights at trial such as the the rights to ask questions, examine evidence and debate. The reasons for accepting or rejecting defense explanations and opinions put forward by the defendants and defenders, and evidentiary materials they submitted, shall be explained in court or in the judgment documents.
15. Where questions exist regarding conviction evidence, it shall be suggested in writing that the people's procuratorate supplement the investigation. Where the people's procuratorate has not submitted written materials within two months, a decisions shall be rendered in accordance with the law based on the evidence in the case.
IV. Earnestly carry out the responsibility of maintaining case standards, improve review and oversight mechanisms
16. The members of the collegial panel are jointly responsible for the facts of the case. Serving judges are the persons with first responsibility for case quality.
Members of the collegial panel review facts and evidence through court hearings or reading of the case file, and independently express deliberation opinions and explain their reasoning.
Death penalty cases are undertaken by judges with ample experience.
17. In cases deliberated by the adjudication committee, committee members take turns independently expressing their opinions and explaining their reasons, and the moderator expresses his opinions last.
18. Where the facts of an initial judgment are unclear and the evidence insufficient, but the second-instance people's court clarifies the facts, it must not be remanded for new trial. Cases that were remanded for new trial on the grounds that facts were unclear or evidence insufficient, must not be again remanded for new trial after an appeal or prosecutorial counter-appeal.
19. A higher people's court's supervision must not be avoided through reduction of a case's jurisdiction level. Instruction must not be sought from higher level people's courts on issues regarding facts and evidence.
20. In review of death penalty cases, the defendant shall be interrogated. Where defense counsel so requests, their opinions shall be heard. Where questions exist on the evidence, it shall be investigated and verified, and when necessary investigated at the place of the offense.
21. In significant, difficult and complicated cases, where trial cannot be concluded within statutory time limits, this shall be reported and an extension of the trial period requested.
22. Establish a scientific system of case-handling performance review indicators; single factor review indicators such as appeal rates, reversal rates or remand rates must not be used to assess the quality and efficacy of case-handling.
V. Give full play to the roles of all parties, establish and complete checking mechanisms
23. Strictly follow statutory procedures and professional duties in trying cases; there must be no allying with public security organs and people's procuratorates to jointly handle cases together.
24. Truly ensure defenders' defense rights such as meeting clients, reading case files, and investigating to collect evidence. Defender requests for retrieval of evidence that might prove the defendant is not-guilty or that the offense was minor, shall be approved.
25. In significant, difficult or complicated cases, persons such as people's congress representatives, CPPCC members and base level popular representatives may be invited to observe and watch trial.
26. Accusations and appellate complaints where there might really be a wrongly decided case, shall be reviewed in accordance with law. Where the original judgement or decision is truly in error it shall be timely corrected in accordance with law.
27. Establish and complete a system of equal accountability among adjudicators for case-handling. Adjudicators performing their professional duties in accordance with law, are not prosecuted. Where adjudicators handling a case violate trial work dicipline rules or bend the law for personal gain, follow the provisions of the relevant trial work discipline rules or laws to pursue accountability.