The Taiwan High Court on Wednesday sentenced a woman who robbed and murdered a couple to life imprisonment after she had previously been given the death penalty in two previous rulings in the high-profile case.
The 31-year-old defendant, Hsieh Yi-han (???), was originally sentenced to death by the Shilin District Court in Taipei in October 2013, and the verdict was upheld in September 2014 by the Taiwan High Court.
But Taiwan's Supreme Court in February 2015 overturned the death sentence handed down in Hsieh's first and second trials and remanded the case to the Taiwan High Court for review.
Hsieh was found guilty of killing Shih Chien University assistant professor Chang Tsui-ping (???), 58, and her husband, Chen Chin-fu (???), 79, before dumping their bodies in the Tamsui River in suburban Taipei in February 2013.
Hsieh was working as manager of a popular riverside coffee shop and befriended the couple who lived nearby.
After the murders, Hsieh was able to withdraw NT$350,000 from Chen's bank account but was not successful in her attempt to withdraw money from Chang's account by passing herself off as the murdered woman.
The case came to light after the bodies of Chen and Chang were discovered near the riverside cafe, days after their deaths.
Though the Supreme Court did not challenge the guilty verdicts of the lower courts, it questioned whether the death sentences were appropriate after Taiwan signed into law the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The covenant stipulates that in countries that have not abolished the death penalty, the death sentence may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law, and it can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent court.
The Supreme Court also ordered an assessment of Hsieh's mental state.
In a major reversal of the previous rulings, the high court seemed to side with the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
It sentenced Hsieh to life in prison on the grounds that she confessed and that a psychological assessment found that Hsieh had made a clean break with her past errors and was at low risk of repeating her crime.
The high court stipulated, however, that Hsieh should serve a minimum 25 years in prison before being eligible for parole.
The verdict can be appealed. The victims' families have demanded death penalty for Hsieh and expressed disappointment at the latest ruling.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel