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CY requests improvement on problems regarding preservation of evidence after conviction and laws on polygraph tests

  • PostDate:2020-07-13

At a joint meeting in May 2020, the Control Yuan (CY) Committee on Judicial and Prison Affairs and Committee on Interior and Ethnic Affairs passed an investigation report requesting the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of the Interior, and Judicial Yuan to conduct a comprehensive review and pursue improvement on problems regarding poor preservation of evidence in criminal cases, along with polygraph tests not meeting the principle of legal reservation.
A complaint was filed by the Taiwan Innocence Project and the family of a Mr. Lu who was convicted of kidnap for ransom and sentenced to death, yet proclaimed his innocence through to his execution. The complainants urged re-examination of the fingerprints collected for the case against the latest database and a thorough review of the polygraph test data and the appraiser’s professional background to ensure justice was served. The CY found that the evidence and case specimens had been discarded, destroyed, or lost, and a new DNA test could not be filed.
To prevent injustice, the DNA Testing Act states that after a conviction becomes final, the result of DNA identification on the evidence or specimens associated with the case may be regarded as new facts or new evidence under Subparagraph 6, Paragraph 1, Article 420 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Thus, the convicted and their family may request a re-examination of DNA on such evidence or specimens. The standards for the preservation of prosecution case files by the National Archives Administration, National Development Council, also stipulate that case files related to death sentences and life imprisonments shall be kept in perpetuity.
However, the CY investigation revealed that the evidence and specimens in Lu’s case were lost, discarded, or destroyed by the prosecution agencies, resulting in Lu’s family being unable to file for a DNA testing. What the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB), National Police Agency, is left with is a photograph of a fingerprint collected at the scene, and all that remains in the polygraph test file is an identification notice. Though the CIB kept the audio recording of the polygraph test, the chart data from the lie detection process were not included in the case file for reference and review.
The preservation of criminal evidence is closely tied to whether the convicted and their family may file for a DNA testing to discover new facts or evidence after a conviction becomes final. Since the evidence and the polygraph in Lu’s case were not properly preserved, among other problems pointed out in the investigation report, the CY has requested relevant government agencies to conduct comprehensive reviews and improve the preservation of evidence in criminal cases after conviction, as well as reviews of whether polygraph tests meet the principle of legal reservation. The CY regards such reviews as essential for the protection of human rights.