TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A Taiwan court sentenced a university student to death Friday for killing four passengers on a Taipei commuter train last year.
Shortly before rush hour on May 21, Cheng Chieh used a 10-centimeter (3-inch) knife in a train car traveling along the metro system's longest stretch between two stations to slash passengers in the chest and stomach, in some cases as they slept, the court said. The apparently random attack also left 22 injured.
Spokeswoman Lien Yu-chyun said the New Taipei City district court considered "the vicious nature of the method that the defendant ... used to kill to be significant." She cited public outrage over the case and said that Cheng, 21, would be "hard to reform."
Before the attack, Cheng posted a message on his Facebook page saying he "wanted to do something big." He told authorities later that the stabbings felt "like slicing tofu," according to local news reports. Ahead of the verdict, Taiwan's Apple Daily newspaper quoted him as saying that he would not mind receiving a death sentence. He has the right to appeal.
People are likely to support Cheng's sentence, with some considering him "a monster that rose from hell," said Taiwan book publisher and historian Yang Lian-fu. But Taiwanese worry that the case points to problems in preparing young people for the homework, job searches and family pressures as they have intensified over the past 40 years, Yang said.
Cheng has been described as a homebody fond of computer games. He complained to police of stress in life and said he committed mass murder to get the death penalty, local media say.
"Cheng Chieh is an isolated case, but his isolated case has its place in today's society," Yang said. "There are people who are lost or there are things in society that make them feel unsatisfied, like they have no goals in life."
The verdict — technically four death sentences — adds to Taiwan's death row total that stands at more than 100. The number of executions, which are carried out by shooting, declined after 2000 due to public opposition, with none between 2006 and 2009. They resumed in 2010 following a change in president and renewed sentiment in favor of the policy.