Zhang Yuhuan, 53, was freed on Tuesday after the Supreme People’s Court in eastern Jiangxi province found him “not guilty” on the basis of a lack of sufficient evidence, Chinese state media Global Times reported.
The result came after a long-running legal battle to overturn the conviction, and highlights ongoing issues within China’s legal system.
In 1993, two boys were found dead in the city of Nanchang, Jiangxi province, according to the report. Police suspected the boys’ neighbor Zhang of killing them.
In 1995, Zhang was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve, meaning his death sentence would be commuted to a life sentence if he didn’t commit any other crimes within a two-year period, state-run China Daily reported.
But Zhang appealed to a higher court, arguing that he was not the killer and claimed that police had tortured him during interrogation, according to the report.
The higher court ordered a retrial, but that was not held until November 2001, China Daily reported. The intermediate court upheld the original judgment, and a later appeal was rejected.
Zhang and his family continued to insist that he was innocent — and finally in March last year, the Jiangxi Supreme People’s Court reopened the case, according to the report. On Tuesday, he was found not guilty.
“After we reviewed the materials, we have found there is no direct evidence that can prove Zhang’s conviction. So we accepted the prosecutors’ suggestion and have declared Zhang innocent,” judge Tian Ganlin was quoted as saying.
Zhang can now apply for state compensation, Global Times reported.
According to the China Daily report, Zhang said the wrongful conviction had cost him the best years of his life. His two sons are now married and have their own children.
“It’s hard for the compensation to make up for the damage of the wrongful conviction to me and my family, but I still hope to get compensated quickly to repair my house and care for my mother,” Zhang said.
For years, human rights advocates have criticized China’s legal system, alleging that it allows unfair trials, torture and other ill-treatment in detention.
China has made attempts to reform its legal system. According to the Global Times report, China officially adopted the legal principle of “innocent until proven guilty” in 1996.
In 2013, an influential Communist Party legal commission issued new guidelines asking for fairer due process in China’s much maligned court system.
However, problems with the country’s legal system remain. China’s judicial system has a conviction rate of around 99%, according to legal observers. It also remains beholden to the ruling Communist Party. Courts are seen first and foremost as a “political organ,” according to the country’s Chief Justice Zhou Qiang.
It remains uncommon for people to have convictions overturned — although Zhang is not the first.
In 2013, a man who served 17 years of a life sentence for murdering his wife was freed after a Higher People’s Court in Anhui province ruled that the “facts about the alleged homicide were unclear and the evidence inadequate.”
In 2016, China’s top court overruled a rape and murder conviction of Nie Shubin — more than two decades after he had been executed.
Ruan Chuansheng, a law professor at the Shanghai Administration Institute, said that the ruling in Zhang’s case showed the advancement of the rule of law, according to China Daily. But he also said judicial authorities could help prevent wrongful convictions by excluding evidence gained through torture.
The friend of a Texas mother found dead was indicted on capital murder and kidnapping charges, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office said.
Magen Fieramusca, 34, was initially arrested and charged in December with two counts of kidnapping and one count of tampering with a corpse after the body of Heidi Broussard was found in the trunk of a car outside of a Houston-area residence linked to the suspect. Broussard’s newborn daughter was found alive in the home.
A grand jury indicted Fieramusca, who also goes by the name Maygen Humphrey, on Tuesday.
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Fieramusca suffocated Broussard after kidnapping her and her baby on Dec. 12, the district attorney’s office said in a press release.
Attorneys for Fieramusca said the state has not disclosed evidence against her and they are “exploring all options at our disposal to vigorously represent Ms. Fieramusca.”
“The prosecution’s refusal to provide us with information at this time is contrary even to their own policies, yet this is where we are,” said a statement from the defense attorneys. “Those accused, as well as the public at large, understandably want swift and certain answers from our criminal justice system. We call upon patience and resisting the rush to judgment until all the facts are in. Unless the State has proven these allegations beyond any reasonable doubt, Ms. Fieramusca remains innocent.”
Broussard and her daughter disappeared on Dec. 12 after she dropped off her son at school. Her car was found at their apartment and all of her belongings — including her identification and her daughter’s diaper bag — were still inside, her boyfriend, Shane Carey, had said.
Friends of Broussard previously told NBC News that Fieramusca had told them she was pregnant. Carey told authorities that his girlfriend and Fieramusca had been friends for over 10 years and that they became pregnant around the same time in 2019, according to an arrest affidavit.
The affidavit states that Fieramusca faked the pregnancy for months as part of a plot to kidnap Broussard and steal her baby. She then presented her friend’s child as her own to her boyfriend, telling him that she went into labor and delivered the baby without his being present.
Her bond has been set at $1 million for the murder charge and $100,000 for the kidnapping charge, the district attorney’s office said.
Minyvonne Burke is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.
NEW YORK — On a quiet night in March, a mob leader was executed in New York City for the first time since 1985. The body of Francesco Cali, a reputed boss of the Gambino crime family, lay crumpled outside his Staten Island home, pierced by at least six bullets.
Hours later, two soldiers in the Gambino family talked on the phone. One of them, Vincent Fiore, said he had just read a “short article” about the “news,” according to prosecutors.
No tears were shed for their fallen leader. The murder was “a good thing,” Fiore, 57, said on the call. The vacuum at the top meant that Andrew Campos, described by authorities as the Gambino captain who ran Fiore’s crew, was poised to gain more power.
Cali’s death was just the beginning of surprises to come for the Gambino family.
Last week, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn charged Fiore and 11 others in a sprawling racketeering scheme linked to the Gambinos, once the country’s preeminent organized crime dynasty. The charges stemmed from a yearslong investigation involving wiretapped calls, physical surveillance and even listening devices installed inside an office where mob associates worked.
As part of the case, the government released a court filing that offered an extremely rare glimpse at the reactions inside a Mafia family to the murder of their boss — a curious mix of mourning and jockeying for power. The case showed that life in the mob can be just as petty as life in a corporate cubicle.
“Mob guys are the biggest gossips in the world,” said James J. Hunt, the former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s office in New York. “You think they’re tough guys, but they’re all looking out for themselves. The only way they get promoted is by a guy dying or going to jail.”
While Fiore initially plotted how Cali’s death would help him and his faction, he adopted a different tone when calling his own ex-wife a few days later, prosecutors said. He warmly referred to Cali as “Frankie” and seemed to mourn the boss as a man who “was loved.” He speculated about the killer’s motive, saying he had watched the surveillance tape from Cali’s home that captured the murder.
Vincent Fiore appeared ambitious, court documents showed, eager to reveal his connections to other gangs and organized crime families. About two weeks after Cali’s death, Fiore bragged in another wiretapped conversation about how he could take revenge on students who had hit his son at school, a government filing said.
Fiore talked first about sending his daughter to beat the students up.
But he also had other options, he said on the call. His ex-wife’s father was a Latin King, her nephews were Bloods, and her cousin was a member of the Ching-a-Lings, the South Bronx motorcycle gang.
Vincent Fiore and the other defendants have each pleaded not guilty to the charges. A lawyer for Fiore did not respond to a request for comment.
Despite decades of declining influence in New York City, the Gambino family, led by the notoriously flashy John J. Gotti in the 1980s, is still raking in millions of dollars, according to the government. Prosecutors said they had evidence that the family had maintained its long-standing coziness with the construction industry, infiltrating high-end Manhattan properties.
The indictments accused Gambino associates of bribing a real estate executive to skim hundreds of thousands of dollars from New York City construction projects, including the XI, a luxury building with two twisting towers being built along the High Line park in West Chelsea.
At the height of their power in the 1980s and early 1990s, the Gambinos and other organized crime families had a stranglehold on New York City construction, through their control of construction unions and the concrete business.
Some of the defendants charged last week operated a carpentry company called CWC Contracting Corp., which prosecutors said paid kickbacks to real estate developers in exchange for contracts.
Despite the scramble after Cali’s death in March, the Gambino crime family continued to thrive through fraud, bribery and extortion, investigators said.
The wiretaps quoted in court papers hinted at the crime family’s capacity for violence. One of the defendants was recorded in April claiming that he had a fight in a diner and “stabbed the kid, I don’t know, 1,000 times with a fork.” Inside another defendant’s home and vehicle, agents found brass knuckles and a large knife that appeared to have blood on it.
Among the notable names in last week’s takedown were two longtime Gambino members, Andrew Campos and Richard Martino, who were once considered by Gotti to be rising stars in the Mafia, according to former officials.
“John was enamored by these guys,” said Philip Scala, a retired FBI agent who supervised the squad investigating the Gambino family. “He couldn’t believe what they were doing. These kids were making millions of dollars as entrepreneurs.”
In particular, Martino has long been viewed by mob investigators as somewhat of a white-collar crime genius, former officials said. Prosecutors have previously accused him of orchestrating the largest consumer fraud of the 1990s, which netted close to $1 billion. One part of that scheme involved a fake pornography website that lured users with the promise of a free tour and then charged their credit cards without their knowledge.
Campos, 50, and Martino, 60, each pleaded guilty in 2005 to their role in the fraud and served time in federal prison.
But as soon as they were released, the government said, they returned to the family business.
Martino is now accused of hiding his wealth from the government to avoid paying the full $9.1 million forfeiture from his earlier case.
After Martino’s release from prison in 2014, he still controlled companies that conducted millions of dollars in transactions, using intermediaries to obscure his involvement, the government alleged. This included investments in pizzerias on Long Island and in Westchester County, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Martino’s lawyer, Maurice Sercarz, said his client fully paid the required forfeiture before reporting to prison. He added, “The suggestion that Mr. Martino concealed his ownership of businesses and bank accounts to avoid this obligation ignores or misrepresents his financial circumstances.”
Campos, meanwhile, climbed the ranks to become a captain inside the Gambino family, according to prosecutors.
Henry E. Mazurek, a lawyer for Campos, said the government’s photos and surveillance footage of his client were not evidence of a crime. “The government presents a trumped-up case that substitutes old lore for actual evidence,” Mazurek said.
After searching Campos’ home in Scarsdale, New York, a wealthy suburb north of New York City, investigators found traces of a storied mob legacy. In his closet there were photos taken during his visits with Martino to see Frank Locascio, Gotti’s former consigliere, or counselor, in prison.
Locascio is serving a life sentence. He was convicted in 1992 alongside Gotti by the same U.S. attorney’s office that brought last week’s indictment. Gotti, who died in prison in 2002, was found guilty of, among other things, ordering the killing of Paul Castellano in 1985, the last time a Gambino boss was gunned down in the street.
On March 14, the day after Cali’s death, Campos drove into Manhattan around 5:50 p.m. to discuss the circumstances of the murder with Gambino family members, seemingly unaware that law enforcement was tracking his every move.
He parked near a pizzeria on the Upper East Side, according to a person familiar with the matter. As the night progressed, he met with Gambino family captains on the Upper East Side and near a church in Brooklyn. They stood in the street, chatting openly, but law enforcement officials could not hear the conversations.
Several days later, Campos and Fiore drove to Staten Island for a secret meeting. A group of about eight high-level Gambino lieutenants gathered to discuss Cali’s murder, a court filing said. In a wiretapped call the next day, Fiore complained that he had stayed out past midnight.
Fiore said on the call that a woman had been at Cali’s home the night of his death, pointing to her as a possible connection. Court papers do not reveal the woman’s identity.
Nobody within the mob family seemed to suspect the person who was charged: a 25-year-old who appeared to have no clear motive.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
The man accused of killing a Mississauga man in October was due to appear in a Calgary courtroom two weeks after the deadly shooting.
Brandon Horatio Drakes-Simon, 24, was arrested by Peel Regional Police Dec. 6 in connection with the Oct. 22 shooting death of Mario Ibrahim outside of a Webb Dr. condo in Mississauga.
On Monday, members of the Calgary Police Service arrested 24-year-old Melnee Christian in connection with Ibrahim’s death, charging her also with first-degree murder.
Brandon Drakes-Simon, 24 of Mississauga, is charged with first-degree murder.
She was escorted on a commercial flight from Calgary to Toronto Pearson Airport in handcuffs by Peel police Tuesday evening.
Drakes-Simon, who has appeared on Calgary’s ‘most wanted’ lists from as far back as May. 14, 2015, was due to appear in Calgary court Nov 5. for robbery and failure to appear on recognizance charges.
Those proceedings were stayed.
Sources also tell the Sun Drakes-Simon had active warrants issued against him at the time of his arrest.
Two days prior to his Oct. 22 murder, Ibrahim narrowly escaped an attempt on his life when a dark-coloured SUV pulled up beside him on the eastbound lanes of the 401 near Hwy. 427 and opened fire.
Police are also working on linking Ibrahim’s murder with an earlier robbery and shooting at a Mississauga strip club.
Thirty-eight-year-old Jason Williams faces robbery and gun charges in connection with that crime, and a Canada-wide warrant was issued for 34-year-old Justin Malcolm of Brampton, who police describe as “armed and dangerous.”
NEW DELHI — Four men suspected of raping and killing a 27-year-old woman before burning her body have been shot dead by police in India.
According to police, the suspects, all of whom were in custody, were shot attempting to escape during a reconstruction at the scene of the crime in Hyderabad, a city in South India.
According to a police statement on the incident, the four suspects tried to snatch a gun from an officer before attempting to flee through a deserted lane and were subsequently shot by police.
Police said the shooting took place in the early hours of Friday — according to police, they had taken the suspects to the crime scene at such an early hour to prevent acts of violence by angry citizens.
India is experiencing yet another cycle of mindless violence against women — just yesterday, a woman in North India who said she was raped by two men was set on fire when she was on her way to court for a hearing in her case. Five men were arrested in connection with the attack.
Public anger over inefficient governance and law enforcement following the violence women face has led to growing calls for capital punishment and chemical castration.
Several reports after the rape and murder of the woman in Hyderabad, a veterinary doctor who cannot be named for legal reasons, revealed that the police wasted precious time in investigating the woman’s disappearance after her family filed a complaint — the police even suggested it was futile looking for her as she had “probably eloped” with a lover.
After news of the shooting broke in India this morning, citizens in Hyderabad showered police officers with rose petals and praised their bravery.
On Twitter, police from Telangana, the state which Hyderabad is the capital of, were congratulated for delivering “swift justice.”
India’s National Human Rights Commission said the shooting of the suspects needed to be “probed very carefully.”
And others said they were incredibly disturbed at the growing bloodthirsty and mob violence in the country, and demanded an investigation into the police violence.
According to the Deccan Herald newspaper, a senior police officer in Hyderabad was involved in a similar shooting at his previous post, when his team shot a group of men who had allegedly attacked two women with acid.
These extra-judicial killings, where the police shoot and kill suspects allegedly in self-defense, are known as “encounter killings” in several parts of South Asia.
Judgement has been reserved in the case of a 42-year-old Cork man appealing his conviction for the murder of his girlfriend six years ago.
He had stabbed her in the neck before setting fire to her home.
Darren Murphy of Dan Desmond Villas, Passage West, Co Cork had denied the murder but admitted the manslaughter of Olivia Dunlea at her home at Pembroke Crescent, Pembroke Woods, Passage West, on February 17th, 2013.
A jury at the Central Criminal Court sitting at the Anglesea Street courthouse in Cork in June 2018 found Murphy guilty and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy imposed the mandatory life sentence.
At the Court of Appeal sitting in Cork on Thursday, Murphy’s counsel Tim O’Leary SC argued the murder conviction was based on prejudicial evidence called by the prosecution at trial which should not have been put before the jury.
However, counsel for the DPP, Tom Creed SC argued that the prosecution had been given permission by the trial judge to call the evidence which, he said, was properly put before the jury.
The President of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice George Bermingham and his fellow judges, Mr Justice John Edwards and Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly, said that they would reserve their judgement in the matter.
A playschool teacher, Mr Dunlea was the mother of three young children. Her mother, Ann and her sisters, Amanda and Anne, were present in court on Thursday.
During the last trial, Ann Dunlea said in her victim impact statement it was “gut wrenching and heartbreaking” to watch her grandchildren struggle without the presence of their mother’s love and touch.
Act of evil
“How do you console a crying child pining for their mother? How do you tell three children that their mother was murdered and their family home set on fire by a deliberate act of evil?”
She said Murphy, by setting her daughter’s house on fire after stabbing her and then failing to call to the fire services, had denied the family the right to see her body and to say their final goodbyes.
The June 2018 trial was the third time that Murphy had gone on trial for the murder. His first conviction was overturned on appeal and a retrial ended in a hung jury before he was convicted for the second time last year.
During the last trial, the court how Murphy told interviewing gardaí that he and Ms Dunlea had a row on the way home from the pub about a man that he believed was an ex-boyfriend.
He said Ms Dunlea told him to get out of her house because she was waiting for this man to arrive at the house. He had lost it and began attacking her.
“I stuck her head into the pillow and tried to smother her. She was trying to lift her head out of the pillow… for three to four minutes I suppose,” Murphy told gardaí.
“I could not understand what she was saying. I had my hands on either side of her head and pushed her down. I was kneeling over her. I didn’t say a word. I wasn’t thinking. It happened so fast. I couldn’t believe I was doing it.
“I twisted her head around head around towards me. She said, ‘What about my kids?’ So I grabbed the knife and stuck it into her. I didn’t open my mouth once I got on her, kneeling over her.
“I stuck it into the back of her neck… twice I think. It all happened so fast. I don’t know what I was thinking,” said Murphy adding he knew she was dead when he stabbed her in the neck and there was no sound from her after that.
While Murphy did not get into the witness box in any of his three trials, he did express remorse of his actions in his last Garda interview which was read out to the jury which convicted him.
“I just want to say sorry. I didn’t mean to kill her. It all just happened so fast. I didn’t want to upset any of the family or the kids. I would do anything to take it back but I can’t.”
A man who launched a frenzied knife attack at a railway station has admitted trying to kill three people, including a police officer.
Mahdi Mohamud, 26, stabbed and slashed at a couple and then attacked Sgt Lee Valentine at Manchester Victoria railway station on New Year’s Eve.
The couple’s injuries included a punctured lung and a skull fracture.
Mohamud pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Court to three counts of attempted murder and a terror offence.
He admitted possession of a document or record likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism and will be sentenced on Wednesday.
The court heard Mohamud, of Cheetham Hill in Manchester, walked up behind a man and a woman in their 50s shouting “Allahu Akbar” and “Long live the caliphate” as they headed for a tram platform shortly before 21:00 GMT on 31 December.
He stabbed the man repeatedly in the back, shoulders and head and then slashed the woman across the face after the couple randomly crossed his path.
The man suffered 13 injuries including a skull fracture while the woman’s right lung was punctured and she suffered a slash to her forehead that cut down to the bone.
British Transport Police officers and tram staff confronted Mohamud, who witnesses said was “like an animal” and was “fixated” on stabbing and slashing.
Sgt Valentine, 31, shot Mohamud with his Taser but the barbs got stuck in the knifeman’s coat and failed to paralyse him.
The sergeant was stabbed in the shoulder before the suspect was wrestled to the ground and arrested.
Sgt Valentine said Mohamud was “dancing around, waving this knife around” before he started to run at the officers.
“He probably closed a seven foot gap in half a second,” he added.
“It was just like a dive, he flew, he probably jumped three or four foot off the ground and just sort of lunged, probably lunged at my head with his knife.”
A second kitchen knife was found in Mohamud’s waistband.
Greater Manchester Police said officers recovered a large amount of “counter-terrorism mindset material”, including images and a document about how to carry out knife attacks.
The defendant, a Dutch national from a Somali family, had arrived in the UK aged nine and became radicalised online, the force said.
Mohamud was sectioned under the Mental Health Act following the attack and taken to a secure mental health facility where he is currently detained.
Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said: “The prosecution’s case is that the attack at Victoria Station was not simply a product of that mental illness.
“It was intended to be a lethal attack, carefully planned over a number of months, reflecting the defendant’s extremist ideology and his desire to perform violent jihad.
“The defendant’s actions may have been disinhibited by his mental illness, but they were driven by an entrenched desire to undertake jihad against the West.”