Vietnam's top prosecutors exonerated another man who served ten year of a life sentence for murder due to procedural errors in the investigation and prosecution of a crime he did not commit.
The Supreme People’s Procuracy, the country’s top prosecution unit, ruled in Nguyen Van Hoa’s favor due to a lack of evidence and numerous inconsistencies in the eyewitness testimony that led to his conviction, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported.
Hoa, 41, a resident of the northern province of Quang Ninh, was detained in August 2004 for allegedly stabbing his neighbor Nguyen Huu Chien to death, the paper said.
According to the initial indictment, the trouble began when a group of friends visited Hoa's family in a hired taxi.
The guests wanted the taxi driver to wait for them, so Hoa's family asked Chien’s family for permission to park the taxi in front of their restaurant next door.
Soon after Chien returned from drinking with two friends, his family asked the taxi driver, Nguyen Hop Tac, to pay a parking fee.
Hoa’s cousin heard the demand and came into the house to tell Hoa angering him and his father.
Prosecutors claimed Hoa used a sharp knife to stab Chien in the chest.
Chien died of the wound on the way to hospital, according to the initial investigation.
Hoa spent ten years at Vinh Quang prison in the nearby Vinh Phuc Province before the recent reversal.
The prison was the same facility where Nguyen Thanh Chan of Bac Giang Province served a decade of a life sentence handed down for the murder.
Chan's wife’s dogged investigation led to the arrest of the actual killer and secured Chan’s release last November.
Chan has lodged a petition for compensation but has, so far, received nothing.
The evidence in both cases was determined to be flawed and inadequate, according to the recent decision.
One eyewitness who was caught up in the fight said Hoa wrestled with Chien in one statement, but later testified that three people had fought in court.
Chien's aunt also gave conflicting statements before and during the trial.
A student initially testified that she'd only heard about the fight, but then said she saw Hoa stab Chien.
Many eyewitness statements suggested that Hoa was not holding a weapon.
The police never collected a weapon either.
They collected Hoa’s blood-stained shirt at the scene of the crime but the blood was never tested to figure out whom it belonged to.
Prosecutors criticized the police for not letting Hoa or other eyewitnesses confront their accusers, given the inconsistencies in their statements.
Hoa maintained his innocence and said he only fought a fellow drinker, before three or four men gathered to beat him and his mother dragged him home.
He said he never got close to Chien.
Hoa and his father both accused the taxi driver of killing Chien, but he never showed up to either trial.
Several eyewitnesses claimed Hoa’s cousin and the taxi driver picked a fight with Chien and that the taxi driver was holding a screwdriver.
Documents from Quang Ninh Police and the provincial prosecutors showed that both men were questioned but the offices did not record and file their statements.
The police have called for a new investigation into the killing.