By Trista di Genova, The Wild East
Tuesday at 4 pm, the judge at Taipei District courthouse read out the verdict in less than five minutes, and the group filed out of the courtoom. Two family members of the deceased motorcyclist left first, and then the half-dozen or more Zain Dean supporters listened in the hallway as the translator read the verdict in English.
The court handed down a guilty verdict to the Briton on three counts: 1) DUI, with a five-month sentence; 2) a hit-and-run accident (technically “leaving the site of an accident”), a one-year prison term; and 3) accidental homicide, sixteen months. After serving two years and nine months Dean faces expulsion from the country where in 17 years he went from English teacher and reporter to entrepreneur advising the Taiwan government and leading corporations. His girlfriend, an ROC citizen, was found not guilty of destroying evidence.
For foreign observers who have closely watched the case unfold over the past year, it was the worst-case scenario, “a travesty of justice, but not entirely unexpected since there was the small chance, I suppose, that the judges could act with such impunity despite all the evidence proving Dean’s innocence,” said one American female observer who attended several hearings in past months. “It’s horribly disappointing, even an ominous indication of the nature of Taiwan’s judicial system as it relates to treatment of foreign residents here.”
Another female U.S. observer described the trial as “a ridiculous gangland frame-up.” She also pointed out recent corruption charges (bribery) made against several Taiwan judges, as well as the fact that shortly after the hit-and-run incident, several police officers in the very police precinct involved in Dean’s case were charged by the National Police Administration for their connections to local mafia.
“The conviction flies in the face of all evidence”, according to a retired British attorney who was present at hearings since last summer and is familiar with the case. For starters, a conviction on a DUI charge would usually be accompanied by evidence to back up this claim, he pointed out. And at no time were police or arresting officers called in to testify or substantiate evidence of intoxication, for example; in a fair trial “they must be brought into court.”
The attorney noted also that the videos submitted by the prosecution only proved the defense’s point — Dean got into the passenger seat that night and in fact, he wasn’t the driver when the accident occurred. Furthermore, critical surveillance footage from one of the city’s most camera-heavy intersections (Xinyi and Songren) had been suppressed in a case where guilt or innocence could have been easily established by this. When defense lawyer Billy Chen had pressed examining judges in the initial investigation for access to video footage, the magistrate snapped, “I’m not giving you the tapes, so stop asking me for them,” and observers believed this was not recorded in the trial transcript.
The trial was “a classic case of discrimination” against a UK national, the foreign observer concluded, since it was “wrongful, unfair treatment” that involved withholding of evidence. The attorney said he was recommending the BTCO (British Trade and Cultural Office in Taiwan) take a more active role in protecting its citizen in this case.
Dean, when interviewed by The Wild East about his conviction, said he felt no anger with the judges’ decision, after being in a legal limbo since March 25 last year. “I suppose I had been naive to think that the law or the evidence may have been used to make a verdict. According to Taiwanese law and the evidence of the case, I am innocent. I even publically pointed out the faked prosecutor photographic evidence in court, to an audience of 20 expat witnesses thinking this could have changed the outcome. But it didn’t”.
Dean also said he could understand why the judges had come to this decision. “The judges are in a tight spot, and have been under a lot of public pressure to find me guilty. Public pressure makes a big difference in Taiwan where the media exaggerate and sensationalize news stories.”
Canadian Denis Chauvin said, “I just don’t know how a guilty verdict can come if there isn’t any substantiated proof other than just some circumstantial nonsense.”
When the story broke last year that a foreign “CEO” had been involved in a hit-and-run accident with a “Mercedes,” it was splashed all over the news for a month. Tuesday’s verdict was a top news item the next day in the Chinese-language Apple Daily. English-language news outlets in Taiwan, however, were far less interested in the trial’s outcome — it was an inaccurate, shoddily written brief in the Taipei Times on Wednesday. It should be noted that The Wild East had the only foreign reporter present at this and other hearings of this trial. Read our previous coverage here and here.
Defense lawyer Chen — who’d previously expressed great confidence of the court delivering a ‘not-guilty’ verdict — is filing an appeal, and resolved to take this to Taiwan’s Supreme Court.