Cheng Chieh trial begins amid victim family backlash
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-08-13 03:08 PM
The trial of Taipei MRT spree killer Cheng Chieh began Wednesday at the New Taipei District Court. Cheng Chieh’s defense attorney petitioned the court for a three month extension to prepare for trial, drawing disbelief from family members who complained, “How can he do this?” and “This is going too far.” The public prosecutor objected to the petition and derided the defense by remarking the prosecutor completed review of all evidence in two days and does not understand why the defense requires three months. The son of deceased victim Pan Pi-chu could no longer stomach the exchange and left the courtroom.

Outside the courtroom, Pan Pi-chu’s son declared angrily, “this is nonsense, since Cheng Chieh wants to die so much, why delay proceedings?” After the presiding judge has listened to prosecution and defense suggestions, there can be a discussion if necessary. However, Taiwan’s judicial system does not allow for the types of long-term trails seen overseas.

At the start of the trial, the court asked Cheng Chieh to recite his personal information to confirm his identity. Cheng Chieh complied quickly with a cold smile and entered a plea of “guilty” after expressing no objection to the content of the indictment. During this process, the accused did not look at the family members of the deceased sitting in the gallery.

When the judge sought to confirm the veracity of one of the prosecution’s indictments accusing Cheng Chieh of planning to harm a junior high school teacher with a utility knife, Cheng Chieh stated, “my attorney will respond.”

At this time, the defense attorney petitioned the court for a three month recess to allow the defense legal team to review the indictment and relevant evidence in detail. This statement incited a fervor from family members. Finally, the presiding judge stated there can be a discussion but Taiwan’s judicial system does not allow for the types of long-term trails seen overseas, thus, putting an end to this issue.

Next, the court asked both sides to comment on the indictment and evidence list. The defense attorney claimed the timing of public report of criminal activity, counselor opinion, digital image forensics, and NTU Hospital psychiatric evaluation report presented by the prosecution do not constitute credible evidence.

Defense attorneys objected most strongly to the psychiatric evaluation recommending the death penalty, questioning the fact that the report neither specifies the identity nor the professional qualification of examiners. There was no way to determine examiners’ professional backgrounds nor was the method of evaluation specified. Defense attorneys claimed that the evaluation report results were incomplete and even contradictory. Since sentencing is the purview of the judge and not a suggestion a physician is qualified to make, defense attorneys criticized the report as a substandard evaluation. Defense attorneys also petitioned the court not to hold a public inquest of video evidence.

Prosecutors insisted that the NTU Hospital psychiatric evaluation report was commissioned according to the law and the report carries the weight of evidence. Regarding video evidence of the crime, certain family members of victims expressed their wish to participate in an inquest of the video. After review, the judge ruled the psychiatric evaluation report admissible as evidence but would further review whether to hold a public inquest into the video of the crime.

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