Arsonist Handed the Death Penalty

A man who was found guilty of setting fire to an apartment building in Chonghe District, New Taipei City, taking the lives of nine people in November, 2017, was sentenced to death, in a verdict handed down by the Taipei District Court today, June 7.

[See previous story: 9 Dead in Apartment Fire: Arsonist Arrested]

Li Guo-hui (李國輝), had argued in his defense that a tenant of the building had constantly provoked him, and that “voices” had told him to do it.

However, the court determined that even if Li had suffered auditory hallucinations, he still had the ability to make choices. Also, Li had used violence in the past, when faced with problems. The arson case had been the result of his actions as an individual.

The court held that Li had the same reasoning ability as any normal person before, during, and after the incident. After setting fire to the building, he had changed his clothes and attempted to evade arrest. Li had also returned to the scene to watch the fire.

A medical assessment had determined that Li was not mentally ill at the time of the incident, and he had showed no obvious signs of mental illness while in detention.

One of the deceased had kindly provided Li with a place to sleep rather than see him sleeping on the street, but rather than showing gratitude, Li had poured gasoline and set fire to the building, resulting in the death of nine innocent people.

The court noted that it was not the first time that Li had responded to a dispute with an arson attack. In May last year, Li had poured oil around the door of a residence and a motorcycle and set fire to it, after a person made humiliating comments about him on Facebook.

In making his decision, the judge determined that Li had shown a disregard for human life, had committed an extreme act of arson, and had taken out his anger on innocent people, endangered public safety and social order, and committed a cruel and destructive act. The judge said that Li’s actions could not be forgiven, and ruled that Li have his civil rights revoked, and be executed.

Li, wearing a black, short-sleeved shirt, shouted: “No problem! It doesn’t matter!” after the verdict was read.

The younger brother of one of the deceased was in the court to hear the verdict. Before the case was heard, Mr Zhang told reporters that he hoped Li would be sentenced to death. “If every criminal uses a mental illness to justify their case, society would be in chaos,” Zhang said.

After the verdict was given, Zhang expressed satisfaction with the verdict but criticized the fact the the landlord has not been prosecuted, and has not even made an apology to the families of the deceased in the 8 months since the blaze.

The apartments were divided into small suites and rented to low income residents. During investigations after the fire, New Taipei City Fire Department said that compartments had been constructed using non-flame resistant materials including wood, leading to an intense blaze. There also were narrow and insufficient escape routes in the building.

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