Cheng Chieh refuses lawyer in MRT slayings case

New Taipei City police officials questioned Cheng Chieh in the Taipei Detention Center Wednesday to determine possible motives in last week’s slaying of four riders on the Taipei MRT. They were particularly interested in learning how he chose the time and spot for the attack.

Cheng reportedly has said he carried out the stabbing spree because he was “exhausted” and, explaining that he was resigned to receiving the death penalty for his actions, has refused to accept the services of a lawyer to defend him.

Prosecutors have indicated that on the several occasions they have interviewed Cheng his thoughts and emotions appear normal, and say they will leave it up to the judge to decide at arraignment whether he needs to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

In a separate development, relatives of the deceased and injured in the incident say they are still uncertain about many aspects of the case and have asked to be allowed to view recordings from monitors in the MRT carriages. Prosecutors have said they will make arrangements for family members to view the recordings.

A spokesman for the Detention Center said Cheng has been following a normal routine and that neither his parents nor his brother has been to see him despite the fact that he has not been barred from having visitors. Outsiders have offered to donate toiletries and daily use items, but as Cheng has said he does not want any visitors other than his family, no one – not even members of the Tunghai University staff – has been allowed to see him.

Cheng has reportedly said that having to work and study at the same time had worn him out. He said he wanted to commit suicide but lacked the courage to do so, thus he chose to carry out the MRT slayings. He added that after committing the crime he considers himself a dead man and he feels “having a lawyer is useless, it is not necessary. I don’t want a lawyer."

Legal experts note that while Cheng seems normal in conversation and everyday activities, prosecutors must be careful in choosing a professional to carry out a psychiatric evaluation to avoid problems in mounting a prosecution after the case goes to court.

Prosecutors say acquaintances have described Cheng as argumentative, but they are reluctant to say whether he is psychopathic or exhibits some other kind of personality disorder pending more extensive examination.

KMT legislator Liao Cheng-ching said Wednesday that he would like to see Cheng receive a speedy trial with a verdict within two months. Chang Ching-pi, Head Judge of the New Taipei District Court, says that he cannot guarantee that things will go that fast but will devote whatever administrative resources are needed to ensure a fair and speedy trial.