Three jail breakers plotted an escape in which a guard was killed after they noticed that he carelessly left a door unlocked when delivering meals and decided to make their bid for freedom during his duty hours.
Two of the defendants at the Intermediate People's Court in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province on Wednesday, Gao Yulun and Wang Damin, persuaded the third, Li Haiwei, to join them.
On the evening of Sept 1 last year Gao applied to make a phone call approved by the guard, surnamed Duan.
Before Gao entered the duty room with Duan the following day, Wang had turned around a monitoring camera and left the room with Li.
Finishing his call, Gao attacked Duan and Wang and Li rushed back in to help. Gao tied Duan's legs with ropes and covered his mouth with a towel.
The trio repeatedly hit Duan on the head as he struggled before being subdued. His death was later confirmed as being caused by mechanical asphyxia.
The three wore Duan's uniforms to make their escape with a sentry shouting and firing a warning shot before they were out of range,
Gao, Wang and Li are each charged with breaking out of jail using violence, intentional homicide, causing intentional injury, larceny and intentional destruction of property during their escape from a jail in Yanshou county, about 150 kilometers from Harbin.
At the time, Gao, 50, had been sentenced to death. Wang, 35, and Li, 29, were charged, respectively, with assault leading to death and murder.
More than 15,000 police officers and a police helicopter were deployed in the hunt for the fugitives. Authorities offered a reward of 150,000 yuan (S$32,000) for information leading to their capture.
Li was recaptured on Sept 3 and Wang on Sept 4.
Gao was reported to police by his niece's family when he showed up at her home in the county's Wangjiatun village on Sept 11, nine days after his escape.
More than 600 spectators, including relatives of defendants and victims, judicial authorities, the media and the public attended the public trial on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The court will deliver its verdict at a later date.