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Top court rejects jail sentence for wife-killer doctor

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeals court’s conviction of a medical doctor for murdering his pregnant wife and instructed it to reconsider the decision.

The 32-year-old doctor surnamed Baek was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a district court and an appeals court in Seoul for strangling his nine-months pregnant wife to death during an early-morning quarrel in January of last year.

The quarrel took place when the wife complained about Baek’s heavy online gaming habit, according to prosecutors. They said Baek was under severe stress at the time due to a state medical doctor qualification test he took a day earlier.

Supreme Court Judge Lee In-bok rejected the murder conviction and sent it back to the Seoul High Court for retrial, citing a lack of objective evidence backing the conviction.

“Even though Baek displayed very suspicious attitudes and behaviors on the day of the event and thereafter, the court cannot accept the murder charges as true without objective evidence and meticulous reasoning,” the judge wrote.

The Judge also determined that the type of bleeding found in the deceased wife could not be seen as specific to having been strangled by human hands, an argument Baek used to protest his innocence.

The doctor reported his wife’s death to the police himself, saying he found her lying dead over a bathtub in the couple’s apartment in Seoul after he returned home in the evening. Citing his medical career and knowledge, Baek claimed his wife might have slipped in the bathroom and the extra weight from the pregnancy could have led to her suffocation.

In line with Baek’s defense arguments, the Supreme Court also noted, “Given the wife’s health condition or the place she was found dead, possibilities could be raised that the victim fainted or fell, and suffocated to death after failing to overcome pressure to her throat due to the fainting or falling.”

Both previous rulings rejected the husband’s claims of innocence, saying marks found around the dead wife’s neck and internal bleeding indicated murder. 

(Yonhap News)

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