A man from Henan province, who spent 15 years behind bars, has had his name cleared due to insufficient evidence to prove his conviction of intentional injury after a retrial.
On Monday afternoon the people's court in Yuzhou, a city in Henan, publicly announced Cao Hongbin, 53, not guilty, "as the evidence in his case was not complete to prove his behaviour constituted the crime of intentional injury," the ruling said.
"I was excited. I've waited for my innocence for 17 years," said Cao, a native from Yanling county, adding he will apply for state compensation over his wrongful detention and conviction.
At about 2 am on April 20, 2002, Cao, a former small shop owner in Yanling, found his wife on the ground with blood all over her face when he came back home. He sent her to hospital with the help of neighbours and then reported the incident to police.
The police discovered the woman was hurt by a stone and identified her as "seriously injured", even though her life was saved after the rescue.
Several days later Cao was detained, much to his surprise. On May 10 that year, he was officially arrested for an intentional killing.
The charge was changed to intentional injury when prosecutors in Xuchang, a city in Henan, made their case.
Although Cao insisted on his innocence, the intermediate people's court in the city sentenced Cao to death for intentional injury in December 2002.
He disagreed with the ruling and appealed to the Henan High People's Court, which later sent the case back to a lower court for rehearing.
In 2004, the intermediate people's court gave the man a 15-year sentence in prison for the same charge, which still made Cao unhappy. He appealed again.
The case was sent back by the high people's court, then again to the intermediate people's court, but the lower court did not hold a retrial. Instead, it named a court in the Yanling county to solve.
At the end of 2005, the county's court sentenced Cao to 15 years in prison for intentional injury, and the ruling was upheld by the intermediate people's court in 2006.
Cao was not given any commutation after serving his prison terms, because he did not plead guilty. "I might as well be dead if I confessed to the crime," he told Beijing Youth Daily after he was acquitted on Monday.
On April 20, 2017, he was freed. At the time, he had been detained for 15 years, and his appeal still continued.
The intermediate people's court in Xuchang city retried the case in 2017 after accepting Cao's appeal, but in February the court in Yuzhou city was convene to rehear the case.
In April, the Yuzhou court opened retried the case, 17 years after the tragedy happened.
According to the Beijing Youth Daily, Cao's wife did not recover well from her injuries, and now lives with Cao Long, her son with Cao Hongbin.