The Chinese man who was convicted to life in prison for buying 14 imitation guns will get a chance at a more lenient sentence. The High People’s Court of Fujian province in eastern China ruled that the case should be retried due to “unclear facts and insufficient evidence.”
A lower court in December 2015 sentenced Da Minglei, 34, to lifelong imprisonment, but on Tuesday Da’s lawyer received the high court’s documententation that said his trial will have to be redone.
According to last year’s trial verdict, Da ordered the guns from a seller in Taiwan who then shipped them to Fujian hidden in an empty water dispenser. Da was arrested in August 2014 for smuggling firearms. Two others involved in the smuggling were also prosecuted and sentenced to seven and eight years’ imprisonment, respectively.
In addition to the 14 guns Da purchased, the prosecution also accused Da of illegal possession of seven other imitation guns. The police department determined that the imitation guns could use compressed gas to shoot pellets. The verdict said the guns were classified as weapons because of their ability to injure people.
“We had no idea about the identification standards for guns,” Da’s wife told Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper, on Wednesday. “If we could have known that imitation guns would lead to such a serious criminal sentence, we definitely wouldn’t have touched them,” she said, adding that her husband is an avid military fan who bought the imitation guns for his collection.
After the verdict was handed down in December 2015, the three defendants appealed to the Fujian High People’s Court, which decided on a retrial in October. Da’s lawyer received the documents from the ruling on Tuesday.
On Oct. 18, the court also announced the retrial of another fake gun case. Twenty-year-old Liu Dawei purchased 24 imitation guns online and was also sentenced to life imprisonment in 2015. The next day, party-affiliated newspaper China Youth Daily quoted an anonymous expert as saying that the probability of imitation guns being used to commit criminal offenses is very high and that low gun-classification standards could lead to innocent people being harmed.
Liu’s lawyer, Xu Xin, a professor at Beijing Institute of Technology, told Sixth Tone that the standards for what constitutes a gun were changed in 2010. “The increased frequency of imitation gun cases is due to the decrease in standards,” Xu said. Previously, only guns capable of hitting a target with more than 16 joules of energy per square centimeter of the gun’s muzzle were considered weapons, but that standard was lowered to 1.8 joules per square centimeter to account for the ability to injure the body’s weakest part: the eyes.
Peng Xinlin, deputy director of the criminal law research center at Beijing Normal University, told Sixth Tone that many people have appealed to raise the gun-classification standard. He believes that although Da’s life sentence complies with the law, the court should consider public opinion that the verdict is too severe. “Justice is not mechanical,” he said.
(Header image: Chen Jie/VCG)