Three years after being accused of stabbing his son to death, a Chicago area man was found not guilty of first-degree murder, according to news reports.
Following a 13-day trial, Hyungseok Koh was acquitted of murdering his son, Paul Koh, at the Skokie Courthouse on Dec. 17, the Chicago Tribune reported. He was found innocent of all charges against him during a jury trial before Circuit Court Judge Garrett Howard.
“He’s extraordinarily happy,” defense attorney Terri L. Mascherin told the newspaper. “He’s very relieved and very excited to be going back home.”
When Koh’s son was found dead in 2009, Korean American police officer Sung Phil Kim served his interpreter for homicide detectives. Kim later admitted during the trial that his Korean was “not great.”
The video of the interrogation from 2009 showed Koh saying, “yes,” when he was asked if he cut his son’s throat. However, Koh’s defense team told the judge that his son was found dead by Koh in their Northbrook home.
Kim later said he tried to communicate “the essence” of the conversation between Koh and the detectives. He also revealed during the cross-examination that he apologized to Koh at the police station because his Korean was less than proficient.
The jury took less than two hours to reach a verdict of not guilty.
“When physical evidence is inconsistent with what the state is calling a confession, the physical should trump, and here it did, and the jury saw that,” [defense attorney Andrew] Vail told the Tribune. “The jury got it right.”
At a welcome home dinner sponsored by the family’s church, daughter Helen Koh expressed thanks to their supporters and talked about their negative experience with the American criminal justice system.
“Our family immigrated to the United States of America during the 1980s, the country that values the freedom and rights of citizens, to make our American dream come true,” the Kohs told the church community in Korean, according to an English translation.
“As many immigrants have done, we have worked very hard in government jobs and businesses as American citizens to achieve our dream, not violating any law or code of conduct in Illinois or elsewhere.”
However, when Paul died, the family was “drained mentally and emotionally,” she said. “We were utterly deprived of our civil rights and legal protections because of wrongful arrest and accusations, along with no efforts to investigate to find and show the truth.”
According to the Northbrook Star, Koh’s family filed a lawsuit against the Northbrook Police Department in 2011, which was stayed pending the outcome of the trial. The Kohs are seeking damages of $150,000 as well as legal fees.