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December 24, 2009

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Drunk driver receives life sentence after 5 deaths

A MAN in Jiangsu Province was yesterday jailed for life for killing five people, including a pregnant woman, and injuring four others while driving drunk.

Zhang Mingbao, 43, the driver responsible for the carnage in the provincial capital of Nanjing in June, was trembling when the Nanjing Intermediate People's Court handed down its verdict.

He kept saying "sorry to you all" to family members of the victims before being escorted out by police.

Zhang mounted a crowded footpath in his car in Nanjing on June 30, hitting pedestrians. He continued driving for more than 200 meters, hitting several other cars.

He was charged with endangering public security.

While the Nanjing native is undecided about an appeal, the victims' families are in no doubt about their intentions.

They were in tears over the verdict and said they would lodge an appeal seeking the death penalty for Zhang.

The court told a press conference later that Zhang was not sentenced to death because he turned himself in after the accident.

Zhang's wife, Liu Fengxia, said the victims' families had received 3 million yuan (US$439,000) in compensation.

The city's Jiangning district government paid the compensation on behalf of Zhang last month because he had no savings.

Zhang's blood alcohol level was 381 milligrams per 100 milliliters of blood, nearly five times the legal limit, when he was tested after the accident, according to the indictment.

He told the court that he drank too much at a restaurant on the night of the accident.

Zhang's lawyer said because the restaurant was so near to his client's home that Zhang thought it would be fine to drive, even after consuming two bottles of wine.

Just 130 meters into his trip he lost control of his car and mounted the pavement.

Zhang's case attracted widespread public attention over whether he deserved the death penalty.

Usually, drunk drivers who cause fatal accidents are charged with vehicular manslaughter, which under law carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

In serious cases, the charge is changed to endangering public safety, which carries a maximum penalty of death.

In September, the death penalty on a drunk driver who killed four people and injured one in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, last year was commuted to life imprisonment.


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