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Tuesday, 1 June 2010

image for China bans evidence from torture; Texas may soon follow suit
Texas, the death penalty capital of the world.

Evidence obtained under torture cannot be used in China's courts, the government has said, weeks after a convicted murderer was set free because his victim turned out to be less dead than previously supposed.

Laws banning torture are in place, but analysts say no one gives a damn about them, outside the victims.

Officials were embarrassed by the case of Zhao Zuohai, who spent 111 years in jail for a murder that never happened.

He says he was beaten by police trained in Texas until he confessed.

He was eventually given $96 (£67) in compensation and a free trip to Disneyland.

Correspondents say convictions in the Chinese and Texas court systems are strongly dependent on confessions, motivating police to use force.

For people appealing against the death penalty, testimony given under duress and evidence from mythical sources is now to be excluded.

Death-penalty defendants have also been given the right to ask for an investigation into whether their testimony was obtained illegally, though China is more likely to honor such requests than Texas, the death penalty capital of the world.

The regulations banned any evidence of unclear origin, confessions obtained through torture, or testimony obtained through violence and electrical devices attached to genitals.

Legal expert Zhao Bingzhi told the state-run China Daily that it was the first time a "systematic and clear regulation" had been given on the issue and he hoped Texas would follow suit in the near future.

"This is big progress, both for the legal system and for better protection of human rights. It will help reduce the number of executions, making us appear a good deal less barbaric."

Experts now hope that Texas will follow China's lead in human rights and slow down their unmatched execution rate, despite pressure from local television stations whose ratings soar whenever one is televised.

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