A judge in central China’s Henan province says she was “a scapegoat” after she was held responsible for a convict reoffending when he was supposed to be behind bars, China National Radio reported Wednesday.
In March 2015, the juvenile division of Lingbao People’s Court in Henan sentenced 20-year-old Yang Wenpeng to 12 years’ imprisonment for his involvement in forced prostitution. However, because Yang has uremia, a life-threatening kidney disease, he was released on bail during the hearings. When the verdict was announced, Yang applied for a noncustodial sentence, and though his application was not accepted, he was not taken into custody.
Eight months later, Yang was involved a knife fight at a local bar in which one person died. He was then charged with intentional injury — and higher authorities realized he had never served time for his previous sentence.
In November 2016, Zhang Xiaohong, the presiding judge of the trial supervision division at Lingbao People’s Court, was arrested on a charge of dereliction of duty and detained for 90 days. But Zhang says she should not have been held responsible for Yang reoffending. Though her duties included deciding whether a criminal was eligible to serve their sentence out of prison, she said that she never accepted Yang’s application, and that he should have been taken into custody immediately after sentencing — before her division would begin looking at his application.
“The problem was between the juvenile court and the detention house,” Zhang told Chinese reporters. She says that though the detention center refused to accept Yang as an inmate, it did not issue a rejection notice as is legally required. The juvenile court, too, submitted Yang’s case for trial supervision with incomplete documentation.
According to Zhang, Yang’s case is part of a systemic issue of negligence throughout the court system. In the past, it had been each division’s obligation to decide whether convicts could serve alternative sentences, but in 2014, Henan province’s high court assigned this authority to Zhang’s division to curb judicial corruption. But Zhang says she handled several cases where convicted criminals had not been taken into custody at all, or had been given prison sentences of just one month.
Though Zhang was released from detention in early 2017, the local procuratorate has not yet decided whether to prosecute her case. In the meantime, Zhang has been suspended from her role, after 24 years of working in the court.
Sixth Tone was unable to reach Lingbao’s court or procuratorate for comment before publication.
Legal commentators have criticized the court system’s handling of the case. “In eight months [after the verdict], Lingbao People’s Court was unable to resolve the transfer of Yang’s case, and its staff couldn’t reach an agreement on whether Yang should be given an alternative sentence,” read a commentary in The Beijing News. “It’s not appropriate to blame everything on Zhang Xiaohong.”
Editor: Qian Jinghua.
(Header image: Photographer’s Choice/VCG)