High court overturns five year distirct court sentence
By Yi Whan-woo
Seoul High Court, Monday, overturned a five year prison sentence passed by a district court after finding that the person convicted was not given an adequate explanation of the process of applying for trial by jury under Korean law.
A 31-year-old man was charged with breaking and entry, and attacking two teenage girls with a knife and injuring one, in January 2011. He was tried and sentenced in Incheon District Court.
Seoul High Court, a court of appeal, ruled that the suspect was denied the right to a 12-member jury trial although he was eligible for it.
“This case is definitely eligible for a jury trial and the lower court obviously infringed on Kim’s rights,” the high court said. “And even if Kim rejected a jury trial, the lower’s court’s ruling in one single trial can only be interpreted as an attempt to strip Kim of the chance of fair advocacy.”
The accused man, identified by his family name Kim, was charged with assault using a knife and an alcohol bottle against the teenager after accusing her of letting her dog bark loudly at night.
He was also accused and convicted of sexually assaulting the other girl.
In additional to the jail sentence, Incheon District Court also ordered the authorities to disclose his private information on the sexual offender’s register for five years and undergo 40 hours of psychiatric therapy.
Kim filed an appeal after the lower court sentence was passed, claiming he was drunk at the time of the incident and that his case should be reconsidered in knowledge of this.
The U.S-style jury system in South Korea was adopted to pursue greater fairness and objectivity in court rulings. A group of 13 people consult with judges on criminal cases, including robbery and assault cases.
The law states that a court should ask a defendant or their lawyer whether or not they want to undergo trial by jury. A request must be submitted in writing, within seven days of the court’s explanation of the jury trial system.
The first case under the system was in February 2008. The number of jury trials between 2008 and 2011 was 574, and this number is increasing, a court official said.