SHANGHAI - A medical student who murdered his roommate at a prestigious Shanghai university by poisoning a drinking water dispenser was sentenced to death by a Chinese court Tuesday.
The Shanghai Number Two Intermediate People's Court said Lin Senhao committed homicide "out of spite" using the toxic chemical N-Nitrosodimethylamine, taken from a laboratory of a Shanghai hospital where he was an intern.
At his trial in November last year, Lin claimed the poisoning of his Fudan University roommate was an April Fool's Day prank, the Shanghai Daily newspaper reported.
The victim, Huang Yang, drank the water on April 1 and died on April 16.
N-Nitrosodimethylamine is primarily used for research. Exposure in humans may cause liver damage and affect the blood, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
"The defendant Lin Senhao committed intentional homicide by poisoning due to trivialities. The method was ruthless, the harm to society was great, the crime extremely serious," the court said in a statement.
Prosecutors rejected Lin's argument he was playing a joke, since he was familiar with the chemical from experiments on laboratory animals.
The court said Lin could appeal the sentence.
In China, death sentences must be reviewed by the country's top court before being carried out.
The crime drew attention in China for comparisons to a 20-year-old case in which a student studying at Tsinghua University in Beijing was allegedly poisoned with thallium by a classmate in 1994 when the two were studying chemistry.
The victim in that case, Zhu Ling, remains alive with severe brain damage. The suspected poisoner -- who was said to be related to a senior Chinese official -- was never tried and now lives abroad.