CHINA: 'VALENTINE'S DAY' KILLER ACQUITTED OF 1998 MURDER
April 29, 2016: A Chinese man sentenced to death for the Valentine's Day murder of his girlfriend 18 years ago was acquitted, a court said, the latest wrongful conviction overturned in the country.
Liu Jiqiang, 52, was found guilty of strangling and stabbing his lover on February 14, 1998, earning him the notorious nickname "Valentine's Day killer" in the Chinese press.
But after spending nearly 2 decades on death row, the Higher People's Court of Jilin province in northeast China dismissed his conviction citing insufficient evidence, the court said on its official Sina Weibo microblog.
Liu initially admitted to the killing, but his lawyers said his confession was obtained as a result of torture and illegal questioning, according to Xinhua news agency.
He was handed the death penalty in December 1999 with a 2-year reprieve which in China often means life in prison.
He unsuccessfully appealed his guilty verdict twice, in 2002 and 2003, according to Xinhua.
China's courts are tightly controlled by the ruling Communist party, which has vowed to overturn mistaken verdicts in the face of widespread public anger.
Liu's case is the latest to highlight miscarriages of justice in the country, where forced confessions are widespread and more than 99 % of criminal defendants are found guilty.
In February, the high court in eastern Zheijiang ordered the release of Chen Man who had been jailed for more than two decades on murder charges.
Of those exonerated in recent years, Chen had spent the longest time in prison, 23 years, state media said.
In 2014, a court in the Inner Mongolia region cleared a man who was convicted, sentenced and executed for rape and murder in 1996 at the age of 18.
The reversal of the verdict came 9 years after another man confessed to the crime. (Source: Agence France-Presse, April 30, 2016)