Seven year campaign frees death-sentence inmate
  • | | June 03, 2011 02:07 PM

Duong Ba Tuan, a local of Binh Phuoc Province, spent seven years campaigning against the imprisonment of one of his hired workers Le Ba Mai, who was twice sentenced to death, apparently for a crime he did not commit.

Mai was released after being sentenced to death twice
Mai and his boss (L)

Mai, 29, from central Thanh Hoa Province worked on Tuan’s farm in An Khuong Commune, Binh Long District from 2001. In 2005, he was accused of rape and the murder of an 11-year-old girl in An Khuong.

Saving a stranger

Tuan first got to know Mai as a homeless, austere and unskilled man. Despite being unimpressed at first glance, Tuan let his compassion get the better of him and offered Mai a job.

Over time, Tuan became impressed by Mai’s devotion and enthusiasm at work, and came to like Mai.

When news broke over the rape and murder accusations, Tuan refused to believe that Mai was guilty and hired a lawyer.

Tuan said, “When the case broke, I was on a trip to Ho Chi Minh City but read the news in the papers. I didn’t believe Mai could do such a thing.”

Found guilty and sentenced to death at the first hearing at a lower court, Mai continued to protest his innocence, and Tuan continued to campaign for his release.

Tuan hired a lawyer who then encouraged Mai to recount his side of the story. Tuan contacted Mai’s father Le Ba Trieu. He provided Trieu with money to travel from Thanh Hoa to Binh Phuoc, and provided guidance in submitting an appeal for his son.

On several occasions, guards at Mai’s prison told Trieu that his son had submitted an appeal already. This lie was only dispelled when Trieu insisted on seeing a record of his son’s appeal. Finally Mai’s appeal petition was being sent to the court just a few hours before the deadline.

After a reappraisal of the facts of the case, Binh Phuoc Provincial People’s Procuracy stood firm on its verdict, and for a second time, Mai was sentenced to death.

With the support from his lawyer and his struggle to find evidence to prove Mai’s innocence, Tuan finally succeeded in pointing out shortcomings in the trial.

According to Tuan, the investigation agency did not comply with legal investigation procedures, but only used the defendant’s declaration to reach a verdict.

The law states that the defendant\'s confession can be used as one piece among a body of evidence only if the other evidence corrobotrates. The confession cannot be used as the sole basis of conviction.

During the investigation, this agency was found to have violated regulations on examining the crime scene, and collecting and preserving of any evidence.

Neither did the investigative agency conduct a full investigation as demanded by the director of Ho Chi Minh City People’s Supreme Court’s panel of judges.

The Binh Phuoc Provincial People’s Procuracy had no direct evidence to accuse Mai and was finally compelled to release him.

Mai was finally released and reunited with his family.

Tuan was happy with the outcome. He admitted his compassion had driven him. He said, “I suppose you could say it would be illegal not to aid the innocent.”

During the seven-year effort to help Mai, Tuan had to hand over all his work at his farm to his younger brother and spent his time and money in the hope that some day Mai could be free.

Despite the hardships, he continued to have the support of his wife.

“My wife said if need be, we would sell our assets to save Mai.”

However, with Mai no longer held legally responsible for the horrific murder of an 11 year-old girl, one family will still be left seeking justice.

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