A court in Jiangxi Province on Thursday acquitted four men of all charges related to the murder and dismemberment of a couple 16 years ago.
The Jiangxi High People's Court withdrew all previous judgments on Huang Zhiqiang, Fang Chunping, Cheng Fagen and Cheng Li due to a lack of evidence and doubtful confessions, according to a statement released on its official website.
The court said it assumed the four confessed under duress, but as there is no evidence for this it will launch a further investigation on illegal interrogations.
The four are entitled to claim State compensation, according to the court.
Wrongful convictions have usually resulted from the unfair relationship between law enforcement and judicial organs, Mao Lixin, a Beijing-based lawyer, told the Global Times earlier.
The owner of a Zhongdian village supermarket was found dead in a field in May 2000, along with his girlfriend who had been dismembered.
In July 2003, the Intermediate People's Court of Jingdezhen sentenced the four men to death for intentional homicide, robbery and rape. After they appealed, the Jiangxi high court ruled there was insufficient evidence and sent the case back for a retrial to the Jingdezhen court on January 2004. The local court upheld its original verdict.
Two year later in July 2006, they were granted a two-year reprieve of execution after they appealed to the Jiangxi high court.
The case began to be reviewed in April because a serial killer named Fang Linzai claimed that he was the "real murderer" in October 2013, news site thepaper.cn reported on Monday. Fang has not been charged in relation with this case.
This is the latest case to be re-examined after the recent judgment by China's top court to clear Nie Shubin, a young man from North China's Hebei Province, who was wrongfully executed 21 years ago on charges of rape and murder.