XIANGNAN LI PLEADS GUILTY TO TONG SHAO MURDER

Xiangnan Li, a former University of Iowa, pleaded guilty to the murder of Tong Shao, a former Iowa State University student, according to a report by CNN. I reported on the breaking news for the Daily Iowan. Li appeared in court in China Wednesday for his trial.I talked to the commander of the investigation unit of the Iowa City police and Johnson County attorney Janet Lyness.

Here is the link to the clip: The Daily Iowan

By Anis Shakirah Mohd Muslimin

Xiangnan Li has pleaded guilty to the murder of Tong Shao, according to a report by CNN.

Li, the former University of Iowa student arrested last year in China in connection with the slaying of Iowa State student Tong Shao, appeared in court in China Wednesday for his trial.

Iowa City police Lt. Mike Brotherton, the commander of the investigations unit, said a group of local officials including investigators Andy Rich and David Gonzalez were in China for the trial.

They were joined by Assistant Johnson County County Attorney Elizabeth Dupuich, County Attorney Janet Lyness said.

Tong Shao (File)

The Iowa City police worked with Chinese authorities to investigate Shao’s murder.

Authorities discovered Shao’s body in the trunk of a 1997 Toyota Camry outside Dolphin Lake Point Enclave apartments in Iowa City on Sept. 26, 2014.

Li had been a student in the Tippie College of Business. He flew back to China on Sept. 8, 2014, before local investigators were able to question him, and a week before Shao’s friends reported her missing.

Li surrendered himself to the police of Wenzhou on May 13, 2015, and was arrested by the People’s Prosecutor of Wenzhou, China, on June 19 for international homicide, the release stated. The United States doesn’t have an extradition treaty with China, but the country could have voluntarily sent Li back to the United States.

Brotherton said the group was invited to China by Chinese officials to observe the legal proceedings related to the case.

“My understanding was that, out of courtesy they were allowed to come and watch the procedure for information and to see how their judicial system works,” he said. “It was a courtesy more than anything they were invited to attend, having been part of the case.”

Lyness said because China doesn’t extradite criminals to the U.S., the only way the Johnson County Attorney’s Office could hold Li accountable for Shao’s death was to have the Chinese government prosecute him in his home country.

She said local investigators met with Chinese officials a day before the trial to see if there were any questions they could answer or assist with.

RELATED: Former UI student arrested in homicide

On the day of the trial itself, Lyness said, the investigators only acted as observers. She said the group of officials was invited to Li’s trial in China about a month ago.

“I don’t’ know how exactly it works in China, so my understanding is that Mr. Li has made some admissions, but he was denying parts of the crime,” she said. “So my understanding is the trial was for parts of the crime he wouldn’t admit to, so the planning of it, the premeditation, I’m not sure how the Chinese system works or how they categorize that.”

According to Chinese law, a convicted “intentional killer” could be punished to a death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment more than 10 years. If circumstances are “relatively minor,” the offender could be sentenced to fixed-term of imprisonment ranging from three to 10 years.

University of Iowa law Professor John Reitz said China gives out more death penalties than the United States, and he noted that the state of Iowa does not have the death penalty.

“In China, I think they have a procedure where there has to be a consideration by the Supreme Court,” he said. “In imposing the Chinese death penalty, the Supreme Court has to be given the chance to review the sentence, so it’s not the same like our jury [in the United States], but it’s a somewhat similar idea that there ought to be careful second look so that they don’t make any mistakes.”

Lyness said the one thing that she and the investigators really wanted to do while the investigators were in China was for them to visit Shao’s family.

“To convey to them our sympathies that their daughter was murdered last year in Iowa,” she said. “I also think part of being there is continuing what is sort of this really good relationship with the Chinese authorities in terms of investigating and prosecuting cases when they occur in other countries.”

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