Considered Opinion: The Yao Jiaxin Case

By Qi Changlong
Published: 2011-04-21

The Yao Jiaxin murder case has captured the attention of a nation.

Yao, a junior at the Xi'an Conservatory of Music, knocked down twenty-six year-old mother Zhang Miao with his Chevrolet in October, 2010. Yao proceeded to stab the woman 6 times in the chest because, Zhang had looked at his license plate.

Yao's defense, that the murder had been a "crime of passion," has provoked further public outrage. Many are demanding the death penalty.

The media attention surrounding the case and the Xi'an People's Intermediate Court's decision to survey the public about Yao's sentence has also raised concerns about the fairness of the trial.

According to a special interview conducted by West China Metropolitan News, Sun Jiabo, an official from the Xi'an People's Intermediate Court, "public opinion will be taken into account during the sentencing, but the judgment will be made in strict accordance with criminal law."

Commentators in the domestic media have been unsparing in their critique both of the defence's case and Xi'an's criminal procedures:

Chen Jieren (陈杰人) writes in the Economic Observer Online:

"A survey of public opinion on a high profile case can more or less be called a 'democratic practice.' But the Xi'an court is engaging in illegal criminal procedures to pander to the public.”"

He adds: "The majority of survey participants are Yao's classmates from the Xi'an Conservatory of Music. I would imagine that his classmates will be more sympathetic toward Yao. This type of survey is no different from consulting his friends and families. How can this type of survey be taken seriously?"

Ye Doudou (叶逗逗), a commentator for Caixin wrties: 

"This is not a mock trial competition in law school. The decision in Yao's case will have a significant impact on both families. This game of soliciting of public opinion that pays no attention to legal procedures needs to stop!"

"Setting aside the question the legality of soliciting public opinion, this vulgar, irresponsible behavior hurts the legitimacy and trust enjoyed by the judiciary system."

Han Wei (韩伟), a researcher at China Renmin University, gave a more tempered response in article for People's Court Daily:

"When it comes to Yao's case, judicial departments should listen to public opinion but at the same time, form their own opinions. They should not simply give up to the demands of the public.  An proper decision should be made according to the law, in accordance with both reason and jurisprudence. This is what Yao's case needs; it is also what modern society expects from the law."


The Xi'an People's Intermediate Court has announced that it will announce a verdict in the Yao Jiaxin case tomorrow.


This article was edited by Ruoji Tang


Links and Sources
West China Metropolitan News:
药家鑫案怎么判?法院向旁听者征“民意”引争议 (Chinese)
Economic Observer Online: 警惕药家鑫案量刑调查问卷假借民意 (Chinese)
Caixin Media: 法官听取民意不可儿戏 (Chinese)
People's Court Daily: 从药家鑫案看司法与民意 (Chinese)