Agent argues Snider's confession obtained legally
SEOUL — The FBI agent who questioned American Kenzi Noris Elizabeth Snider in a West Virginia motel room for three days took the stand in her murder trial Thursday to defend the way her confession was obtained.
Snider confessed to killing Jamie Penich, 20, a fellow exchange student, on March 18, 2001, in a motel near the U.S. Army’s Yongsan Garrison.
The 21-year-old from St. Cloud, Minn., is charged with unintentionally injuring a person resulting in death. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
She now says the confession was coerced by Army Criminal Investigation Command investigators and Lee Sung-kyu, an American FBI agent stationed in Seoul. She was questioned for three days in a Ramada Inn motel room in Huntington, W.Va., in February 2002.
Snider now contends a U.S. soldier — one who socialized with the girls the night of the murder — must have killed Penich.
Her attorney, Om Sang-ik, said he called the FBI agent to testify in an effort to discredit his client’s confession.
Snider, in a light green prison uniform, sat and watched as her attorney sparred verbally with the agent. Also in the courtroom was Snider’s mother, Heath Bozonie, who is staying in Seoul through the trial.
Om asked Lee his status in the case and whether he had authority to conduct the investigation.
Lee said he went to the Yongsan Police Station after the crime to conduct an interview and help if needed. He also stressed that as an FBI agent, he doesn’t have to “verify how I’m looking at you, as a suspect or as a witness.”
Lee testified the interview he conducted with Kenzi — and the confession — were legal.
“Kenzi said she wanted to have an attorney, didn’t she?” Om asked of the interview in the hotel.
“That’s not true,” Lee said. “She asked if she could have a lawyer, but she didn’t really request one.”
Lee told the court he was shocked that Snider confessed, even though he believed she had committed the crime.
“I was surprised,” Lee said. “I thought she wouldn’t come back after she left once.”
Much of the testimony focused on the CIC agent — referred to only as Mansfield. The agent is coming to Seoul from the United States to testify in the next portion of the trial on May 22, the judge announced Thursday.
After court adjourned for the day, Om said he’s a little worried the judge seems to be taking the prosecutor’s side but thought Thursday’s session was successful.
He said he plans to call as many witnesses as possible, including some of the other college students who traveled with Snider and Penich that weekend.