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Current penalty for random mass killings called adequate
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-05-22 03:45 PM
KMT legislator Tsai Cheng-yuan took to Facebook Thursday to call for an amendment to the section of the Criminal Code that mandates the death sentence or life imprisonment for random mass killers. Tsai’s posting came one day after a knife-wielding young student killed four and wounded 23 in an apparently pre-meditated rampage Wednesday afternoon on a Taipei MRT train. Chiu Hsien-chih, chairman of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, countered that existing legal norms are adequate for such cases and that additional legislation is not necessary. At any rate, said Chiu, Tsai’s proposal is unconstitutional.

Tsai offered what he called an “emergency proposal” for an amendment to the Criminal Code Section 271 stating that perpetrators of random undifferentiated killings are to be “sentenced to death or life imprisonment," with Tsai urging the addition of the stipulation that those guilty of "undifferentiated random killings on the MRT, high-speed rail and other public transport are to be sentenced to death."

Chiu Hsien-chih told a reporter Thursday that in principle the law should be left non-specific and broad and thus open to interpretation, adding that Tsai’s proposed amendment to the law is essentially unconstitutional.

Chiu explained that Section 271 of the Penal Code stipulates that in ordinary homicide cases, "killers are to be sentenced to death, life imprisonment or imprisonment for more than ten years." In such cases, says Chiu, judges are given the authority to determine a punishment consonant with motives and the number of victims in a case. He warned that further defining punishments to be meted out could mean that in some cases where the judge might feel a sentence of 15 to 18 years in prison is justified, he or she might be forced to impose a death sentence with no room for discretion or leniency.

Chiu also cited the Teng Ru-wen murder case from 1993 as an example. Teng was a battered wife who suffered long years of battery and sexual assault by her husband. She eventually was driven to slay him as he slept and was sentenced to life in prison. Her sentence was later commuted to three and a half years, and the case led to the Domestic Violence Prevention Act and the Sexual Assault Prevention Act.

Chiu stressed that his organization believes that current laws and standards are adequate and provide a sufficient measure of flexibility for judges in exercising their decision-making powers in sentencing. Tsai Cheng-yuan's proposed amendment, cautioned Chiu, is “not necessary."

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