TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Taiwan High Court on Tuesday (Dec. 24) commuted the death sentence of one of the five principal offenders who sexually assaulted and beat a mentally challenged teenaged girl to death in 2015, handing him a life sentence on the grounds that he and his accomplices could be rehabilitated.
According to Liberty Times, Hsinchu City native Lin Chuen-Shyong (林春雄) targeted the mentally handicapped 14-year-old girl, surnamed Chiu (邱), after being angered by a comment she made to his girlfriend at an internet café. Lin and four of his accomplices forced Chiu into a nearby alley and beat her with bamboo sticks and motorcycle helmets before pedestrians stepped in.
The five culprits then took Chiu to an open area under the Zhulin Bridge and gang-raped the severely injured girl before leaving for a karaoke bar. Upon their return, the offenders found that Chiu had died from excessive blood loss and proceeded to burn her body with gasoline in order to cover up their misdeeds, reported CNA.
Lin was originally convicted by the High Court of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 2016, while the other four perpetrators received life sentences. However, the Taiwan High Court's commuted Lin's sentence in Tuesday’s retrial.
The Taiwan High Court said that the decision was made based on the judges' belief that the five defendants had shown signs of remorse and could be re-educated. The Court claimed that the group had not intended to kill Chiu and that the incident should therefore not be considered a first-degree homicide, reported UDN.
The verdict, which can be appealed, has attracted waves of criticism from Taiwanese citizens, including popular actor William Hsieh (謝祖武), who bashed the judges for allowing "demons" to roam on the streets. Since even criminals sentenced to life imprisonment can be released on parole in Taiwan, the death penalty debate has been stirred up once again.
Despite the Taiwanese government's efforts to phase out the death penalty due to pressure from human rights activists, many Taiwanese still believe that capital punishment is necessary for a safe society. Chiu's murder has also been linked to the widely discussed "Little Light Bulb" case, in which a four-year-old girl was decapitated by Wang Ching-yu (王景玉), who suffers from schizophrenia, in 2016.