[JURIST] China's highest Court on Tuesday overturned the death sentence of a woman convicted of killing her abusive husband in 2010. The Supreme People's Court (SPC) [official wesbite, Chinese] remanded the case [Reuters report] of 43-year-old Li Yan to a high court in China's Sichuan province, finding that her first trial lacked sufficient evidence and factual clarity. Yan beat her husband to death with an air gun in 2010 after nearly two years of marriage in which she suffered physical, sexual and verbal abuse from him, including [AI report] having cigarettes extinguished on her face and having a finger cut off. Yan's lawyer, Guo Jianmei, said this may be the first time a Chinese court overturned the death sentence of a prisoner convicted of killing his or her domestic abuser. Jianmei also believes it is unlikely Yan will be sentenced to death if convicted in her retrial. Yan's retrial is scheduled for May 2015.
China has long been under international pressure to restrict or eliminate its use of capital punishment. In March China's legislature, the National People's Congress, announced [JURIST report] measures that, if passed, would reduce the number of crimes warranting the death penalty. In May 2011 the SPC instituted [JURIST report] harsher penalties for violations of food-safety crimes, including the death penalty if the crime resulted in someone's death. A month prior the standing committee of China's National People's Congress amended [JURIST report] certain laws, which resulted in the abolition of the death penalty for 13 crimes, including some non-violent and economic crimes. In January 2011 Human Rights Watch accused [JURIST report] China of over-using capital punishment as well as falling short of its stated goals in the country's National Human Rights Action Plan of China enacted in 2009 to promote and protect human rights. In February 2010 the SPC issued [JURIST report] new guidelines in an effort to limit the number of people sentenced to capital punishment in Chinese courts, which included instructing courts to issue the death penalty only to those who commit serious crimes.