Eighteen years ago, an 18-year-old was put to death after reportedly confessing to the rape and murder of a woman. In 2005, another man admitted to the crime—but only today was the teenager's conviction ruled wrongful, Reuters reports. The teen, named Huugjilt, made his confession after 48 hours of interrogation in China, PressTV reports. But the court says the confession didn't match the evidence, including findings from an autopsy. An official with the court in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region within China, has given Huugjilt's parents some $4,850 following the renewed verdict. According to state news via the South China Morning Post, Huugjilt and a friend were walking by a public restroom when they heard yelling; as Huugjilt tried to help, the two found a woman's body, the friend says.
"We learnt a heart-breaking lesson in this case; we are sorry," the court official told the weeping parents, who have been trying to have the case retried since 2006. A criminal law expert in China says "this shows the spirit behind judicial reform in our country and that the will to pursue justice exists—that's a good thing." But reformers say China must go further by abolishing the death penalty, stopping government influence over court decisions, and banning police torture for confessions (which is illegal but still happens, a professor says). Meanwhile, Huugjilt's parents visited their son's grave and ripped up a copy of the verdict. "The wrongful conviction has been redressed," they wrote online. At the grave, his mother wept in a video posted by the Beijing News: "I knew you were innocent, but I could not help you; I miss you so much," she says. (In one reform, China has stopped transplanting organs from executed prisoners.)