Date set to rule on appeal in Snider trial
September 20, 2003
SEOUL — The fate of the first American extradited to South Korea on murder charges will be determined Oct. 14, a Seoul High Court said Thursday.
The three-judge panel will announce its decision that day on a prosecutors’ appeal of Kenzi Snider’s acquittal on charges involving stomping her traveling companion to death two years ago in an Itaewon hotel room.
The announcement was made Thursday during the second hearing of an appeal initiated by South Korean prosecutors.
Initially, police suspected U.S. soldiers were involved in the death of Jamie Lynn Penich, 21, an American student in Taegu. But, prosecutors said, after months of investigation and days of questioning, Snider told Army investigators and FBI agents in West Virginia that she committed the crime.
A South Korean court ruled that confession inadmissible. Citing a lack of physical evidence, the original court acquitted Snider.
Prosecutors have challenged that. In South Korea, unlike in the United States, prosecutors also can appeal the outcome of criminal cases.
During the 15-minute hearing Thursday, Snider spoke only twice, answering “No, sir” to two questions by the presiding judge. At the last hearing, Snider told the court why she made a confession that she later recanted.
Snider’s mother, her Korean attorney and a U.S. Embassy official accompanied her to Thursday’s hearing.
Sitting in wooden, high-backed chairs with felt cushions, the three-judge panel heard what essentially were closing arguments by attorneys on each side.
Chief Judge Chon Bong-jin asked Snider whether she had any further evidence to submit or anything to add to her attorney’s closing statement. Snider answered no to both questions.
Prosecutor Ham Kyu-yong argued that Snider’s statement in West Virginia should be admitted because it resulted from a joint investigation by South Korean policemen and U.S. investigators.
Snider was notified of her Miranda rights against self-incrimination, Ham said, and her extradition followed all regulations.
“Please take consideration of this fact that Kenzi confessed to killing her friend according to a proper legal process,” Ham asked the three-judge panel, repeating an earlier request for a seven-year prison sentence.
Defense attorney Kim Hong-kyong countered that Snider’s confession had no legal standing in a South Korean court because, according to South Korea criminal law, only a confession made before a prosecutor is admissible.
Further, he said, the confession was acquired under force and stress.
“That is why she should be acquitted,” Kim said.