Caixin
Jun 05, 2019 08:12 PM
POLITICS & LAW

After 23 Years Wrongfully Jailed, Jilin Man Seeks $3.1 Million

How much is 23 years of life worth? For Jin Zhehong, who was wrongly convicted of murder in 1996 and exonerated last year, the answer is 21.3 million yuan ($3.1 million) — that’s the sum he is seeking from the government for nearly a quarter-century of wrongful imprisonment that he said has left him physically disabled and unable to work.

Born in 1968, Jin was convicted of the 1995 killing of 20-year-old Li Yi in November 1996, and given a suspended death sentence. A so-called “death sentence with reprieve,” this was automatically converted into life in prison after two years. Jin unsuccessfully appealed four times before he was acquitted at a retrial 18 years later.

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Jin Zhehong (center) walks out of the courthouse with his son (right) and his lawyer on Nov. 30 in Changchun, Northeast China's Jilin province. Photo: VCG

China’s courts have been correcting wrongful convictions in recent years and awarding compensation, though the payouts have typically been much lower than the amounts requested. Many of the acquittals have come due to patchy evidence and confessions obtained through violent police interrogations.

In Jin’s case, the court pointed to insufficient evidence and problems with the original judgment: Jin’s motive and other facts were unclear, including Li Yi’s time of death.

Qu Zhenhong, the lawyer representing Jin in his compensation request, said the claim totals 21,322,194.64 yuan ($3.1 million). The claim comprises infringement of personal freedom, disability compensation, property compensation, spiritual damage and the expenditure of unjust costs. Jin is also demanding an apology from the government to restore his reputation.

Jin’s requests exceed the standard amounts. Qu said Jin experienced tremendous mental and physical suffering while in prison — not only did he miss out on the majority of the early life of his son, who was just 2 years old when Jin was imprisoned, but his wife separated from him and his relationship with his mother deteriorated. “In Jin Zhehong’s case, it was not his fault that he was judged wrongly, but the fault of state organs,” Qu said.

Jin’s health deteriorated significantly during his time in prison, medical records submitted with the application show. They detail traumatic injuries to Jin’s spine and nose, as well as a range of chronic diseases impacting the eye, lung, brain, kidneys and stomach, including diabetes and extremely high blood pressure. Jin went from “a strong young man” to “a disabled person completely incapacitated and unable to work,” his lawyer said.

In January, another Jilin man, Liu Zhonglin, was awarded 4.6 million yuan in compensation for a wrongful conviction in a homicide case after spending a quarter of a century in prison. He had requested 16.7 million yuan.

Qu, who also represented Liu, said he thought Jin was entitled to more. “Liu Zhonglin was in good health when he was released from prison,” he said. “Jin Zhehong was in poor health and could not take care of himself. He walked with a crutch. I hope the court will take this into account.”

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Contact reporter Ren Qiuyu (qiuyuren@caixin.com)

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