Postgraduate poisoner sentenced to death

by Jason Lee on February 19, 2014

By Jiang Yabin in Shanghai and Chang Meng in Beijing

Lin Senhao (center), a medical student who murdered his roommate, stands trial in a courtroom of Shanghai No.2 Intermediate People’s Court on Tuesday. Photo: AFP/Shanghai No.2 Intermediate People’s Court

A postgraduate student who poisoned his roommate with a toxic chemical was Tuesday sentenced to death in Shanghai.

Medical student Lin Senhao, 27, from Shantou, Guangdong Province, was found guilty of intentional homicide, after poisoning his Fudan University roommate in April 2013.

Huang Yang, 27, from Zigong, Sichuan Province, also a postgraduate in the medical faculty, was dosed with N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) which causes liver damage. Lin poisoned Huang because he held a grudge against him over “trivial daily matters,” said Wang Zhigang, presiding judge at Shanghai No.2 Intermediate People’s Court.

Lin had said the poisoning was an April Fools’ Day prank.

The tragedy has affected the health of both sets of parents. On Tuesday, Lin’s father arrived at the sentencing looking gaunt, and Huang’s mother, who is in poor health, could barely stand as the verdict was read. Lin looked calm as the verdict was read.

“The family all hoped for a death sentence. I am satisfied with the ruling,” Huang’s father Huang Guoqiang told the Global Times. However, Lin’s father said he would appeal.

In an interview with China Central Television on Tuesday ahead of the verdict announcement, Lin described his deeds as “despicable,” and attributed it to his “recklessness.”

“Hurting another person didn’t seem to go beyond my [moral] limit,” a calm-looking Lin said as he described his thinking at the time.

Lin took the chemical from a lab at Zhongshan Hospital, which is affiliated to Fudan University, where he worked as an intern. He added it to the water dispenser in his dorm on March 31, 2013.

Huang died on April 16 of liver, kidney and lung failure after drinking the poisoned water on April 1.

The court heard the case on November 27, 2013. Lin claimed in court that he had no intention to murder and just wanted to “make Huang feel uncomfortable” on April Fools’ Day.

The two were not close, and Lin was unhappy when Huang would sometimes make adverse comments, describing Lin as “stingy” or criticizing his behavior, prosecutors said in court.

The court said Tuesday that Lin’s “April Fools’ joke” defense did not hold up. Lin must be familiar with NDMA as he had done experiments with the poison on mice and has published several papers on its effects.

Lin put at least 30 grams of NDMA in the water dispenser, which is more than 10 times the fatal dose for an adult man of Huang’s size.

The prosecutor said Lin concealed his crime even when police questioned him twice on April 11. He confessed the next day after he was summoned by police.

The prosecutor also rejected the defense lawyer’s opinion that Lin committed “indirect intentional homicide,” and ruled that his confession was insufficient to be handed a lighter punishment.

“The verdict is reasonable because Lin failed to give a reasonable defense for the motive of the murder. Huang’s family has not forgiven Lin either,” said lawyer Wu Ji from Shanghai Hengye Law Firm.

Lin could have been sentenced to death with a reprieve if he had confessed to his crime and his family had compensated Huang’s family in time, Wu said.

Huang’s father received two apology text messages from Lin’s father in December last year. But Huang’s father did not accept the apology because he felt it was not sincere, according to a report on news portal xinmin.cn.

The ruling is unlikely to change even if Lin’s family does appeal, said Wu.

The high-profile murder has drawn attention to other cases of campus violence, and led to a discussion of mental health among university students.

Many Net users, while agreeing with the ruling, said the situation was a tragedy for all parties involved. Calls were made for reflection on the lack of basic respect for life in society.

Beijing-based clinical psychologist Sun Yuxiao said that poor emotional control and interpersonal skills are major issues for young people today.

“Many problems are hard to detect without professional consultation, and these might eventually erupt like in Lin’s case,” Sun said.

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