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Sentenced to life after accidentally dropping a watch

Friday, May 10, 2013, 17:02 GMT+7

Bui Minh Hai, a local guard, suffered untold disgrace and mental torment as he was unjustly arrested and imprisoned for murder, robbery and rape 15 years ago.

Amidst the festive atmosphere in preparation for the Tet holiday in February 1998, Hai, born in 1956, a resident of southern Dong Nai province, was dumbfounded as the local police stormed into his house and put him in custody as the prime suspect in the murder, robbery and rape of Tran Thi Thanh Dung, a woman in his neighborhood.

Everything seemed surreal as the police officers read out his arrest warrant, accusing him of committing the horrific crimes.

It hit him later on that on a night in January 1998, after falling over several times since he was drunk, he accidentally dropped his son’s watch on the street.

In a cruel twist of fate, near where he dropped the watch lay Dung’s dead body, which was discovered by locals the following morning.

Hai desperately pleaded his innocence, but in vain. He was later put in solitary confinement.

He spent the first of many days behind bars agonizing over the grim reality of facing life in prison, and how this ordeal would devastate his family, especially his kids.

These gloomy thoughts relentlessly gnawed at him, plunging him into a crisis. He attempted suicide by tearing one of his pairs of prison pants and plaiting the shreds into a rope to hang himself, but his shackles kept him from reaching the dangling rope.

He made several more suicide attempts later. He never took a shower during the 86 days he was locked up in solitary confinement.

Later Hai gradually calmed down, and set his mind on getting himself out of prison and clearing his name.

Positive that the real culprit was on the loose and about to strike again, he patiently waited. 13 months later, someone raped and killed another victim, a 9-year-old girl.

As Nguyen Van Teo, the real culprit, was arrested soon later, Hai was acquitted of the crimes and set free. However, his family suffered. Humiliated by his classmates for being the son of a murderer and rapist, his eldest son quit school, and his wife fell ill from worrying about her husband and children.

Hai is one of the few victims of a justice miscarriage who is currently working in the local government. He is also one of the few who received concern and encouragement from his neighbors and the local government to get through the ordeal.

Bui Minh Hai was arrested by Dong Nai police in February 1998 for murder, robbery and rape.

In November 1998, the provincial People’s Court held a trial on Hai’s case. The provincial People's Procuracy suggested the death penalty for Hai, but the court sentenced him to life in prison.

In September 1999, Hai was acquitted and released shortly after the real culprit was arrested. He officially had his name cleared by the province’s legal agencies three months later and received VND59.9 million in compensation.

Tuoi Tre

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