Miscarriage of justice? Vietnam reopens grisly murder case after years of delay

By VnExpress   July 5, 2017 | 02:39 am PT
The suspect had been sentenced to death, but his family say the evidence was tampered with.

Vietnam’s top prosecutors have reopened a murder investigation following allegations made by the suspect’s lawyer and family that the initial investigation had been compromised.

The order to officially reopen the case came in December 2014 when the convict, Ho Duy Hai, was given a stay of execution by then President Truong Tan Sang following various complaints from his mother who said that she needed more time to prove his innocence. But it has taken officials nearly three years to act on the instruction.

Hai, now 31, from the southern province of Long An, was sentenced to death in December 2008 for allegedly murdering two women.

The verdict said he had propositioned one of the women for sex, but when she refused he hit her with a chopping board before slitting her throat. The other woman suffered a similar fate when she arrived at the scene.

An appeals court upheld the sentence in April 2009 and Hai was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in December 2014.

In the statement issued this week, the Supreme People’s Procuracy, Vietnam's top prosecutors' agency, asked investigators to double check “conflicting points” in the case, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported.


Ho Duy Hai in court. Photo by VnExpress/Vu Dang

The latest complaint made by his family a month ago said there were signs that his case file had been falsified, and failed to mention that the fingerprints, blood and hair found at the crime scene did not match Hai’s.

There were also discrepancies regarding the size of the murder weapon and evidence given by a key witness, it said.

Miscarriages of justice have grabbed headlines in Vietnam in recent years.

The most recent data released by the National Assembly, Vietnam's top legislature, in mid-2015 showed that at least 71 people were wrongfully charged or convicted in the country from October 2011 to September 2014.

Most of the cases involved murder, robbery or child rape.

One case that received a lot of press in 2013 was the release of Nguyen Thanh Chan from the northern province of Bac Giang after he had served 10 years in prison on wrongful murder charges. His wife’s own investigation reportedly forced the real murderer to turn himself in.

Chan, now 56, alleged that police officers had threatened to kill him and forced him to plead guilty. He received VND7.1 billion in compensation from the Supreme Court in 2015.

Questions were raised once again about the justice system in the same province when Han Duc Long was released last December after waiting 11 years on death row on charges of rape and murder.

Long is demanding $880,000 in compensation from the Supreme Court, which cleared his name last April, admitting “mistakes and shortcomings”.

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