Few doubt that Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai, will be found guilty when a court in eastern China delivers a verdict in her murder case next week.
At a brief closed-door trial last week, Gu reportedly confessed to killing British businessman Neil Heywood, a longtime friend and business partner, over a failed financial transaction.
Court officials at the Intermediate People's Court in Hefei, where Gu's seven-hour trial was held on August 9, said her verdict will be delivered at the same court on Monday at 9:00 a.m. local time.
Ever since she and a household aide were charged with the crime in April, state media have been adamant that there is clear and substantial evidence to convict Gu, who is said to have acted out of an unspecified threat against her son.
Implications for Bo unclear
But official accounts of the case have made no mention of her husband Bo Xilai, a powerful ex-Communist Party boss who had been expected to become one of the party's top leaders in a rare power transfer later this year.
Since the scandal broke out, Bo has been stripped of his political posts and completely hidden from public view. But his wife's verdict and sentencing may hold keys as to how party leadership plans to handle Bo, who is being investigated on corruption charges.
Leadership transfer pushing schedule?
It is unclear whether Bo will face criminal charges related to the murder case. But regardless, analysts say Beijing is anxious to quickly resolve the country's messiest political scandal in three decades, especially before it convenes its 18th Party Congress, which could take place by September.
Many supporters of the charismatic Bo suspect that the proceedings against his wife are part of a wider effort to ruin his political career ahead of the leadership transfer. A son of one of the founders of communist China, Bo was popular for his controversial campaign of "red" cultural themes and Maoist slogans.
Though there is little question about whether Gu will be convicted, the outcome of her sentencing is less clear. Though she faces a possible death penalty, Chinese law experts say Gu will likely be spared execution and instead receive a long prison sentence.
The outcome is also uncertain for four senior police officials who were charged with helping Gu cover up her alleged role in the murder. The officials worked in the southwest city Chongqing, where Heywood died in November and where Bo served as party secretary.