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Death penalty sought for Taipei Metro 'mass murder' suspect

2014/07/21 20:48:58

Taipei, July 21 (CNA) New Taipei prosecutors on Monday indicted a man accused of killing four passengers on the Taipei Metro system in May and recommended that he be given the death penalty because of the brutality of the crime and the suspect's lack of remorse.

The suspect, 21-year-old university student Cheng Chieh, was charged with four counts of murder and 22 counts of attempted murder for his actions on a moving subway just before evening rush hour on May 21.

The indictment was handed down as Cheng's two-month detainment period expired Monday.

In defending their request for the death penalty, prosecutors described Cheng's behavior in the indictment as "mass murder," and said the incident caused collective panic across society and made people feel the need to be on guard when taking public transportation.

They also said his action had spawned several potential copycats threatening to kill people on public buses or the subway system.

A thorough assessment of Cheng conducted by National Taiwan University Hospital concluded that Cheng had no mental disorders or deficiencies, meaning he is not eligible under Article 19 of Taiwan's Criminal Code to avoid punishment for the offense or have the sentence reduced because of mental incompetency, prosecutors said.

In their 8,000-word indictment, prosecutors also focused on the brutality and cruelty of the stabbings, saying that the surveillance footage showed a "scene from hell."

Cheng was seen repeatedly stabbing his victims and even toying with them without showing the slightest sliver of humanity, and he even admitted during his mental evaluation that he felt pleased to have the fate of the passengers in his hands, prosecutors said.

Even if he felt tired in the station, he had hoped to find a place to rest before killing again, prosecutors said.

According to the indictment, the attacks were premeditated rather than done on a whim and Cheng deliberately chose the subway line on which the attacks occurred to bring about the most casualties possible.

He was determined to carry out his vow to kill people because failure to do so would have negated his being, prosecutors said, and the brutality of the attacks showed the suspect's dangerous nature.

Also, Cheng has shown no remorse since being detained and has not apologized to the victims or the families of his victims, leaving prosecutors no alternative but to ask for the death penalty for his heinous acts, prosecutors argued in the indictment.

The prosecutors also explained in detail the suspect's motives, saying his problems may have started in elementary school when he had disputes with female classmates that hurt him and led him to vow to kill for revenge.

They described Cheng as being "indifferent to social conventions, self-centered, antisocial and narcissistic," epitomized by his lack of empathy for others.

Facing strict discipline in junior high school, he had a clash with his teacher, and pocketed a knife for a month looking for an opportunity to stab him.

Because of his inability to gain acceptance among mainstream groups at school, he gradually developed a sense of nihilism, feeling it difficult to deal with life, prosecutors said.

Despite his problems, Cheng lived up to the academic expectations of his family and teachers and made it into a senior high school in New Taipei.

Starting in his first year, he penned essays on his blog explaining why he formed the pledge to kill and posted articles with killing as the main theme.

To fulfill his commitment to kill, which had grown stronger, Cheng enrolled in the Chung Cheng Institute of Technology in 2011 because he wanted to receive military training there.

But the school kicked him out in 2013 because he failed academically and physically, dealing him a severe blow that deepened his pain, made him more inclined to think life was meaningless, and spurred him to act earlier rather than later on his killing pledge.

Complying with his parents' wish, he transferred to Tunghai University the same year, but he continued to flounder academically.

Compounding the problem was that one of Cheng's senior high classmates brought Cheng's articles to the attention of a school counselor, who forwarded them to the university.

The university put him under investigation and was on the verge of expelling him.

The pressure of the investigation, his poor academic performance, his imminent dismissal and his long-term suicidal and nihilistic ideas prompted him to move up his killing plan to the eve of his expulsion, prosecutors said.

(By Lilian Wu)