Official: Gu Kailai confessed to killing
China’s legal system thrust into spotlight
BEIJING – After O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder in 1995, a well-connected Chinese lawyer pointed to the case as proof of the failure of the American judicial system.
“An American trial always gives bad people a chance to take advantage of the loopholes,” the lawyer, Gu Kailai, wrote in a 1998 book about her experiences working in the United States. “The Chinese judicial system is fairest. … If you kill somebody, they’ll arrest you, try you and shoot you.”
On Thursday, Gu, the wife of former Politburo member Bo Xilai, was on the receiving end of Chinese justice. She appeared in court on charges of poisoning British businessman Neil Heywood.
Lawyers needed only seven hours to present evidence in the case. There was no jury at Hefei Intermediate People’s Court, no defense counsel to cross-examine witnesses – in fact hardly any witnesses at all. The evidence was presented in the form of prepared statements, with the exception of forensic evidence showing that Heywood had been poisoned.
At the end of the session, a court official held a news conference at a nearby hotel to announce that Gu, 53, and a co-defendant, Zhang Xiaojun, 33, her family’s butler, had confessed to murdering Heywood.
“The defendants did not dispute the accusation of intentional homicide,” the deputy director of the court, Tang Yigan, told foreign reporters.
Despite the reported confessions, the court’s official verdict will be handed down at the same time as sentencing.
Heywood, 41, a longtime family friend, was found dead Nov. 15 in a hotel room in Chongqing, the central city where Bo was Communist Party secretary.
Reading a statement, Tang said Gu had invited Heywood to visit her in Chongqing with the intention of killing him because of a financial dispute.
At the hotel, she and Heywood drank. After getting drunk and vomiting, Heywood asked for water. But the water he was given was poisoned.
“All the facts are clear and the evidence sufficient,” Tang said.
Although Heywood’s body was promptly cremated, a police official had taken a blood sample. And closed-circuit video showed Gu going into the hotel room where the body was later found.
Chinese law carries the death penalty for premeditated murder, but there are hints Gu will be spared, with the blame increasingly placed on Heywood.
The statement read by Tang said Gu believed that “Heywood physically endangered the physical safety of her son.”