3+4: Death Penalty Cases Now Jury Cases
A man by the name if Liu Chunlu started a fire inside a KTV bar back in April 2018, following an altercation he had with a waitress and, on a separate occasion, with another KTV patron.
He was arrested the next day, and a few days later, ‘The People’s Jury Law’ was enacted, providing a new system to make rulings on severe criminal charges, including those punishable by the death penalty.
On 11 September 2018, Liu was sentenced to death by a Guangdong court, making him the first man to be charged with capital punishment under the new law, which establishes a system dubbed “3+4”, standing for the requirement of having 3 judges and 4 jurors in rulings for cases listed in the bill.
Article 17 stipulates that this system is to be applied for cases involving “prison sentences of 10 years or more, life sentences, death sentences and sentences for crimes with a big impact on society”.
Interestingly, the previous draft incarnation of the law solely included cases involving “prison sentences of 10 years or more”, with death penalty cases being added prior to its official implementation.
According to a law professor from the Shanghai Administration Institute, this move reflects the authorities’ intent to treat death penalty cases with a higher degree of caution and ensure the proper application of the law.
Since then, a quota of 3 times the number of judges per court has been issued, which is to be submitted to the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress.
Many big cities and provinces have subsequently turned to State media such as Xinhua and People’s Daily to announce their courts’ individual number of required jurors.
China is famous for shrouding its use of the death penalty in secrecy, and although public opinion towards capital punishment is difficult to evaluate, the involvement of jurors in death penalty cases will undeniably affect the Chinese people’s stance towards the death penalty.
In early November, China underwent the Universal Periodic Review at the UN, which saw a number of countries recommending that China ratifies the Second Optional Protocol, reduces the scope of the death penalty and, more generally, work towards the complete abolition of the death penalty.