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July 17, 2012

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Motorcyclist on trial for 2005 accident

AN unlicensed motorcyclist who was on the run for seven years after he abandoned an injured passenger in an accident in Shanghai went on trial yesterday for murder. The passenger died at the scene after being run over by a truck.

The Hongkou District People's Court heard that Li Zhonghai, 32, turned himself in at a police station in his hometown in central China's Henan Province last October during last year's police clampdown on fugitives.

Prosecutors said Li was driving an unlicensed motorcycle along Jiangyang Road S. around 3am on October 16, 2005 when he crashed into guard rails.

Both Li and the 24-year-old passenger, Zhang Cheng, fell to the pavement. Li fled after he saw Zhang was hurt and couldn't move, the court heard.

"People gathered after the accident. I thought they would call the police and save him, so I left by motorcycle," Li said. However, soon after Li left, Zhang was run over by a truck.

Li said he knew Zhang died from media reports and decided to flee after he learned police had questioned motorcyclists in his area and his wife.

Prosecutors called for a sentence of 10 to 12 years, saying Li had full responsibility for the death though the truck driver also fled and is at large.

Li's lawyer argued that the truck driver should take partial responsibility as the autopsy report showed Zhang died of compound injuries.

"The crime of my client should be causing a traffic accident rather than murder," Li's lawyer said. "He had no intent to kill the victim and escaped out of his fear." The lawyer also asked the court for a sentence of less than seven years, which would correspond to the crime of causing a traffic accident.

But prosecutors said Li left Zhang alone on purpose, leading to Zhang's death and murder charges.

"That Li had turned himself in could only help him get a lighter sentence within allowable range but could not get his sentence reduced" below the range, prosecutors said.

No verdict was announced.

The father and relatives of the victim were in court and said they would sue Li for compensation.

Although Li's motorcycle was insured, he may get nothing from the insurance company since the company can refuse to pay when an insured driver flees.


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