50-year-old Jin Zhehong has been set free after spending 23 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit. Police arrested Jin on October 29, 1995, for the rape and murder of a 20-year-old woman named Li Yi in the Jiyong county, Jilin province, in China. Throughout his trial and his incarceration, he maintained his innocence, reports Asian One.
On September 29, 1995, Li Yi’s body was found buried near the rail lines in Jilin Province. A couple days later, police arrested Jin Zhehong for the murder.
Investigators believed that on September 10, 1995, Li Yi and Jin met up when she hitched a ride on his motorcycle. He raped her, killed her, then buried her body in a ditch near the rail tracks, reports Yahoo.
That was the prosecutor’s case and belief. Additionally, Jin confessed to the crime. However, the story was inconsistent and didn’t match up with the evidence. The time, place of death, and the murder weapon were never established. As for the confession, Jin maintained that investigators tortured him during the interrogation to make him confess. Nevertheless, he went on trial and was sentenced to death.
Jin went onto appeal the case and his trial got sent to China’s higher courts. But the courts ended up knocking it back down to the lower courts where they maintained his guilt. This happened four times where he was sentenced to death each time, only to have it reprieved.
During his time in prison, his mother died from the stress of her son being jail. She stopped eating and taking care of herself. Till her death, she believed in his son’s innocence. His wife ended up getting remarried and his son, Jin Yongxin, grew up without his father. The only times his son saw him was on short visits to the prison where he was locked up. “From childhood to adulthood, I only saw my father in prison,” Yongxin told Thepaper.cn, reports SCMP. “The visits were limited to 20 minutes each time, and all the visits I made do not add up to four hours. Sometimes I couldn’t get a sentence in because I went with other family members.
“This case has been tried for several years, and all along we have believed he is innocent.”
It wasn’t until a major newspaper in China, The Paper, started to dig in the case and raise doubts that the courts took notice. In 2014 they brought up the case of Jin Zhehong and how there was no physical evidence or eyewitnesses against Jin. They also noted that the confession had holes in the story because it was brought out by torture.
The story gained steam on social media where many declared Jin’s innocence. “The truth has been revealed in this situation, but what about the many, many cases like this that do not get brought to light?” one commenter said on Weibo, reports SCMP.
The murder case was reopened on October 24th. Jin once again maintained his innocence while his lawyer, Li Jinxing, reiterated that there was no evidence against his client except the confession which was tortured out of him. The courts recognized he didn’t commit the crime and he was released today after spending 23 years in prison. “The evidence was insufficient and the facts were not clear,” the court ruled.
The incarceration has left Jin’s body and mental state damaged. “He has had a stroke and suffers from several illnesses including high blood pressure and diabetes,” Li Jinxing said. “His psychological state is very bad…and his body has been broken”
On a pair of crutches, alongside his twin brother, his son, and his lawyer, Jin Zhehong spoke first of his mother. He told reporters, “My mother died of illness brought on by my situation, and when she passed her eyes were open.
“Right now, what I most want to do is to pay my respects at their gravestones.
“When this happened, I told myself, as long as I am alive, I will be able to clear up the situation. I did not murder anyone.”
Jin Zhehong plans to heal as much as possible before he tries to seek compensation for his false imprisonment.