BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese court has sentenced a mother to a "lenient" five years in prison for murdering her paralyzed twin sons who needed full-time care, in a case that aroused public sympathy, state media reported Wednesday.
The official China Daily newspaper said Han Qunfeng gave her sons water laced with sleeping pills before drowning them in a bathtub in November.
The 13-year-olds had been born prematurely and had cerebral palsy.
Han confessed to the murders at a hearing earlier this month. "I just wanted them to leave quietly. I would not kill them if we could go back in time," Han told the judges, according to the newspaper.
After killing the boys, she dressed them in new pajamas and then attempted to take her own life by drinking a mixture of pesticide and rat poison, the newspaper said.
An official from the Dongguan No. 1 People's Court in southern Guangdong province said Han was sentenced Tuesday.
"The judges believe, having taken care of her two paralyzed children for 13 years, she committed the crime when she was under great depression and despairing of life," said the official, who gave only her surname, Liao, as is customary for Chinese officials.
"By considering that the crime has caused only relatively small harm to society, the judges have given her a lenient sentence," Liao told The Associated Press.
Chinese courts usually deal harshly with murderers, sentencing them to death or long prison terms.
Han, 37, gave up her job as a bank clerk to care for her children when she found it difficult to hire nannies. Han's husband forgave her for the murders because the family was at the brink of bankruptcy after spending all its savings on treating the twins in hospitals, state media reported.
Han's case aroused sympathy from neighbors and former colleagues who wrote a joint letter to the court pleading for mercy.
"She deserved the lenient sentence. The murders resulted from years of mental burden," one of the judges, Xue Fengyan, was quoted as saying by the China Daily.
"Depression is not an excuse for committing a crime," said Hao Xingwang, a law professor at Renmin University in Beijing. "But the mother must have suffered great economic and psychological pressure when taking care of the children. According to laws, it's appropriate for her to get a sentence of between three and 10 years in prison."
Associated Press researcher Yu Bing contributed to this report.