SUWON, Gyeonggi Province -- A man surnamed Yun on Wednesday filed a request for a retrial in hopes of overturning his conviction for the 1988 rape and murder of a child, for which he served nearly 20 years in prison.
“I am innocent. Today is a happy day for me,” Yun told reporters before filing his request with a district court in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, where he was tried and given a life term in October 1989.
Yun, 52, is seeking exoneration for what has been identified as the eighth murder in a notorious cold case known as the Hwaseong serial killings, after suspect Lee Chun-jae, 56, admitted guilt in the five-year crime-spree last month.
During a press conference at 10 a.m. at the Gyeonggi Central Bar Association, Yun and his team of lawyers pleaded innocence in the death of a 13-year-old girl in the rural city of Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, on Sept. 16, 1988.
Yun appears at the Suwon District Court to file a request for a new trial in a case from over 30 years ago. (Kim Arin/The Korea Herald)
“There are two competing confessions in this case. One is Lee’s today and another is Yun’s from over 30 years ago,” said attorney Park Joon-young. “Determining which holds more credibility would be the key point of contention.”
Park said the defense team found inconsistencies in probe records from police, which raised suspicions of a stitch-up.
“For instance, the affidavit signed by Yun says he climbed over a wall to break into the victim’s home. Yun contracted polio at age 3 and has a weak left leg,” he said.
“Yun also left school in third grade to make a living at an early age and could not read or write properly. The affidavit contains complex vocabulary and stylistic elements that make it hard to believe that he had indeed written it.”
The way Yun was investigated did not follow due procedure, either, according to the lawyer.
Yun was arrested without a warrant, Park said, and was not informed of rights of suspects, such as his right to a lawyer.
Since his sentencing, Yun has consistently claimed, as evident in court memos, that police brutality forced him into giving a false confession.
Park said that Lee will be summoned as a witness, saying the prime suspect with DNA matches in five of the murders to date has provided profilers with convincing testimony to believe he was responsible for the crime.
Authorities who conducted investigations at the time will likewise hold accountability to give testimonies over the course of the proceedings, if the court decides to call them in, he added.
Yun and his defense team speak during a press conference Monday in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province. (Kim Arin/The Korea Herald)
“Yun spent 20 years of his life in jail for a crime he did not commit, and another decade in shame as an ex-convict after he was released on parole in 2009,” said Kim Chil-jun, a senior attorney at a law firm based in Suwon.
“Following Lee’s recent confessions, police have been spearheading belated efforts to bring the truth to light,” he said. “As retrial proceeds, more truths will be revealed.”
Kim said the significance of the reopening of the case is twofold.
“First, it would help restore the honor of a man who was wronged by past judiciary. Secondly, and more importantly, the wrongs of the then-police, prosecution, forensic services, court and media will be exposed.”
He said Yun’s retrial will offer a chance to revisit a case where investigative and judicial institutions “did not operate properly at every stage of the process until an innocent man was pronounced guilty.”
Kim said society bears collective responsibility by acting on confirmation bias, and called on those directly involved to reflect on what led to the “forsaking of the basic principles of human rights protection and adjudication based on evidence.”
Asked how he feels, Yun said he was grateful for a possible redemption for injustice he suffered.
“There is no way to compensate me for the life I lost, but I trust my lawyers and police to uncover the truth at last.”
By Kim Arin (firstname.lastname@example.org