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Woman serving life sentence granted retrial, a first in Korea

A woman who has served 18 years of a life sentence for killing her father will be retried, the top court confirmed Wednesday. It is the first time that a retrial has been granted for a convict serving a life sentence that is already in progress.

The Supreme Court granted a retrial for Kim Sin-hye, who was given a life sentence in 2001, accepting Kim’s claim that she confessed under duress during police questioning. Kim has been incarcerated for the past 18 years at the Cheongju Women’s Penitentiary.

(Captured from local broadcaster KBS)
(Captured from local broadcaster KBS)

Kim was convicted of murdering her father in March 2000 by adding sleeping pills to an alcoholic drink and then abandoning his body. She confessed to the crime during a police interview the same year, saying she had killed her father because he had sexually abused both her and her stepsister for many years.

However, Kim changed her testimony at trial, saying she had made a false confession to prevent her younger brother from going to jail because her uncle had told her that her younger brother “may have” killed their father. She also retracted her earlier claim of having been sexually assaulted by her father.

The top court, however, handed down a life sentence in March 2001.

Kim has maintained ever since that she confessed under duress and that the police investigation was unfair.

With the help of the Korean Bar Association, Kim was able to apply for a retrial in 2015. The courts dismissed an appeal by the prosecution, denying there were grounds for a retrial. Kim’s retrial will be held at the Haenam branch of the Gwangju District Court, where her first trial took place.

By Jo He-rim (