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4.05.2010

Joint criminal activity and the death penalty

What happens if one defendant in a case of joint criminal activity files an appeal, and the other - who has received a death sentence - does not?

This may seem an idle question, given that article 186 CPL already states that these appeal cases are to be "reviewed and handled as a whole":

A People's Court of second instance shall conduct a complete review of the facts determined and the application of law in the judgment of first instance and shall not be limited by the scope of appeal or protest.
If an appeal is filed by only some of the defendants in a case of joint crime, the case shall still be reviewed and handled as a whole.
Courtesy CECC
So the defendant who has not filed an appeal will take part to second instance proceedings. His case will be heard in court (kaiting shenli), instead of being decided through a review of the record of criminal proceedings (shumian shenli), as it happened until 2005/2006.
But, the Supreme People's Court has found out that second instance courts fail to abide by this provision.
The discovery came during the review and approval of death sentences issued by higher people's courts, revealing that the procedures followed by second instance courts are not uniform. Some courts may hold hearings, while others may just review the case record (shumian shenli). Sometimes second instance courts reject the appeal altogether, and uphold the fist instance verdict.
An implication is that higher people's courts may tend to confirm death sentences and pass the bucket to the SPC. Therefore on March 17 the SPC issued an intepretation instructing second instance courts to hold hearings in all cases of joint crimes where one of the defendants does not appeal a death sentence. The interpretation became effective on April 1 and can be found below.


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【法规标题】关于对被判处死刑的被告人未提出上诉、共同犯罪的部分被告人或者附带民事诉讼原告人提出上诉的案件应适用何种程序审理的批复
【颁布单位】最高人民法院
【发文字号】法释〔2010〕6号
【颁布时间】2010年03月17日
【全  文】

关于对被判处死刑的被告人未提出上诉、共同犯罪的部分被告人或者附带民事诉讼原告人提出上诉的案件应适用何种程序审理的批复

最高人民法院关于对被判处死刑的被告人未提出上诉、共同犯罪的部分被告人或者附带民事诉讼原告人提出上诉的案件应适用何种程序审理的批复

  (2010年3月1日最高人民法院审判委员会第1485次会议通过)

  法释〔2010〕6号

  中华人民共和国最高人民法院公告

  《最高人民法院关于对被判处死刑的被告人未提出上诉、共同犯罪的部分被告人或者附带民事诉讼原告人提出上诉的案件应适用何种程序审理的批复》已于 2010年3月1日由最高人民法院审判委员会第1485次会议通过。现予公布,自2010年4月1日起施行。

  二○一○年三月十七日

  各省、自治区、直辖市高级人民法院,解放军军事法院,新疆维吾尔自治区高级人民法院生产建设兵团分院:

  近来,有的高级人民法院请示,对于中级人民法院一审判处死刑的案件,被判处死刑的被告人未提出上诉,但共同犯罪的部分被告人或者附带民事诉讼原告人提 出上诉的,应当适用何种程序审理。经研究,批复如下:

  根据《中华人民共和国刑事诉讼法》第一百 八十六条的规定,中级人民法院一审判处死刑的案件,被判处死刑的被告人未提出上诉,共同犯罪的其他被告人提出上诉的,高级人民法院应当适用第二审程序对全 案进行审查,并对涉及死刑之罪的事实和适用法律依法开庭审理,一并处理。

  根据《中华人民共和国刑事诉讼法》第二百条第一款的规定,中级人民法院一审判处死刑的案件,被判处死刑的被告人未提出上诉,仅附带民事诉讼原告人提出 上诉的,高级人民法院应当适用第二审程序对附带民事诉讼依法审理,并由同一审判组织对未提出上诉的被告人的死刑判决进行复核,作出是否同意判处死刑的裁 判。

  此复。