TAIPEI, Taiwan - Cheng Chieh, the college student charged with killing 4 and injuring 22 at the Jiangzicui MRT station on May 21 of last year, was given four death sentences yesterday afternoon by the New Taipei City District Court.
Prosecutors believe that Cheng's actions were cruel in intent and had been pushing for a death penalty verdict for the past 10 months.
Cheng's lawyer's main defence for avoiding the death penalty was that Cheng's usage of a knife did not give his victims a painful death.
Throughout the proceedings, Cheng has been kept in detention for a total of 290 days. It was reported that Cheng did not personally attend court for the verdict yesterday.
On Feb. 10, in a statement through his lawyer, Cheng acknowledged for the first time that his actions were wrong and that if he could go back, he would not have committed the crime.
Cheng has not commented directly on his thoughts on the crime, although it is widely believed by the victims' families that Cheng was coaxed by his lawyer into expressing remorse.
Soon after the crime, Cheng was noted as saying he "wanted to do something big" in explaining his motives for the attack.
On May 21 at approximately 4:22 p.m., Cheng boarded the Bannan Line on the Taipei MRT at Longshan Temple MRT Station and started flailing a knife around, slashing those in his proximity.
During the attack, some passengers used smartphones to record hazy videos of Cheng inside the train wielding a knife.
Cheng alighted from the train as it arrived at Jiangzicui, where the station's security cameras recorded him slowly walking before he was tackled by police and MRT staff.
On July 21 the New Taipei City Prosecutor's Office pressed charges against Cheng for the murder of four and attempted murder of 22 people, which led Cheng's case to fall under the category of "mass murder."
Professor at Central Police University Shen Sheng-ang was commissioned to conduct a psychological assessment on Cheng throughout the New Taipei District Court proceedings.
Shen's report indicated that Cheng did not suffer from any mental or personality disorders, but showed persistent unwillingness to accept treatment.
Lee Jui-chang, brother of murder victim Lee Tsui-yun, stated in front of the district court yesterday afternoon that the defence lawyer's acquittal plea is infuriating to family members.
"If he was not sentenced to death, what is stopping someone else from doing something more brutal?" he said.
As Cheng's was given the death sentence by the New Taipei City District Court, Cheng and his lawyer still have the option of appealing to Taiwan's High Court for an additional review.
The defence's primary argument remains that Cheng's use of a knife caused his victims a relatively painless death, although the prosecution has emphasised on behalf of affected families that the ruthless attack has scarred the families permanently.