Adelaide law student who killed his mother wants to be free to pursue the bright future she wanted for him.

An Adelaide law student who killed his demanding mother has asked a judge to set him free so he can fulfil the high expectations and dreams she held for him.

“It may seem somewhat trite, but in effect Mrs Emma Mae Tian has actually died to get the future that she wants for her son,” Michael Hegarty – the lawyer acting for her 22-year-old son, Wei Li – told the Supreme Court today, the ABC reports.

“The death of Emma Mae Tian becomes somewhat senseless, and her efforts pointless, if Mr Li is punished continually and prevented from doing the very things that she wanted him to do that led to her death.”

A jury this week found Li – who admitted to killing his 41-year-old mother at the family home in 2011, but said he was not guilty of murder because he was acting in self-defence – guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

During the pre-sentence hearing, Mr Hegarty argued his client should receive a suspended sentence, so he could be released from jail and pursue the bright future his mother had desperately wanted for him.

“The role that his mother played in her death is a significant feature… this is one of those cases where a suspended sentence could be considered,” he said, News Limited reports.

“He’s had to come to terms with the one person who has supported him in his life, who gave him the future he wants, the future he is striving for, being dead,” he told the court.


The lawyer said Li suffered years of domestic violence at the hands of his mother, who demanded he get the highest academic marks, speak multiple languages, play three instruments and work in the family’s furniture shop.

She had wanted him to study to become a lawyer or diplomat at the Australian National University and was disappointed when he was accepted into law at the University of Adelaide.

Li told the court on the fateful morning he killed his mother, he was practising martial arts instead of piano as his mother had wanted.

He said Ms Tian came at him and he feared for his life, so he fought back.

“A culmination of years of living in a dysfunctional family, he finally explodes and then a short, short mistake, and she dies,” Mr Hegarty said.

The court heard she had more than 50 injuries to her body and was strangled by either her son’s hands or a cord.

Li told the jury he never wanted to hurt his mother, whom he loved, and had limited memories from around the time of the incident.

But police discovered he had searched on his computer methods for killing someone and the terms ‘avoid police’ and ‘track mobile’.

After killing his mother, Li fled to China and lived with his father – who supported him in court – until he was deported three years later.

Supreme Court Justice Trish Kelly said the jury’s verdict indicated they thought the issue of provocation was relevant to the case, despite the fact it was not relied upon in Li’s defence.

She said his sentence would likely be at the upper end of the scale for manslaughter, which carries a range of sentences – from suspended fail terms to life imprisonment – unlike murder, which carries a minimum term of 20 years’ jail.

Li will be sentenced at a later date.

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