An appeal court Friday upheld a verdict against a teenager convicted of killing three people while robbing a gold shop in the northern province of Bac Giang last year, despite calls for fresh probes into the case.
At the hearing held by the People’s Supreme Court, Le Van Luyen, 19, saw his jail term of 18 years unchanged for robbing and killing the married couple that owned the shop, along with their 18-month-old daughter.
He was also convicted of critically injuring their nine-year-old daughter.
Six members of Luyen’s family, including his father Le Van Mien, also had their sentences maintained, although they previously asked for decreases in their punishment.
At the first trial on January 11, they were jailed for between nine months and two years for abetting and harboring Luyen as a fugitive.
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According to the board of judges, although they intensified the details of his crime as proposed by the victims' family’s lawyer, they could not increase his sentence, because he committed the crimes when he was less than 18 years old.
Lawyer Pham Van Huynh had said the first trial's verdict did not take into consideration Luyen’s “inhuman” actions, which could have intensified his crimes.
Luyen was two months shy of his 18th birthday at the time of the crime, and under Vietnamese law, offenders under the age of 18 can not be sentenced to more than 18 years in prison.
Also thanks to the law, he escaped a death sentence, even though in Vietnam, the murder charge carries the death penalty as the highest punishment.
The appeal court instead asked Luyen’s family to pay another VND30 million (US$1,400) in compensation to the victims’ family and a monthly fee of VND1.5 million ($72) to the survived child until she is 18.
However, the victims’ family said they will file another appeal.
According to Huynh, many details that have raised suspicions that Luyen may have acted with accomplices have yet to be clarified.
For example, Luyen admitted to using knives to commit his crime, but autopsies found there were injuries on the victims’ bodies caused by weapons other than the knives, he said.
According to the indictment, on August 24 last year, Luyen snuck into the Ngoc Bich Gold Shop with two knives, planning to rob the shop to use the money to get back his aunt's husband's bike from a pawn shop. He had previously pawned the bike for VND5 million (US$240) to buy a mobile phone and hang out with his friends in Hanoi.
After breaking into the shop, he fatally stabbed the gold shop’s owner, Trinh Van Ngoc, his wife Dinh Thi Chin, and their younger daughter.
The boy also cut the right hand of Trinh Ngoc Bich, the couple's elder daughter, and slashed her arm and head before leaving with all the gold from the shop. The value of the gold was estimated at VND1.2 billion (US$57,000).