Judge: Toss murder conviction in daughter's death
- Article by: MICHAEL RUBINKAM
- Associated Press
- June 13, 2014 - 7:40 PM
A South Korean man convicted of killing his daughter in what authorities alleged was an arson fire 25 years ago should be released from prison or given a new trial, a federal magistrate in Pennsylvania said Friday.
Han Tak Lee's conviction and sentence should be set aside because the science underpinning the case has been discredited, said U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson, whose recommendation will go to a federal district judge for consideration.
"Today, with the benefit of extraordinary progress in human knowledge regarding fire science over the past two decades it is now uncontested that this fire science evidence — which was a critical component in the quantum of proof that led to Lee's conviction — is invalid, and that much of what was presented to Lee's jury as science is now conceded to be little more than superstition," Carlson wrote.
Lee, who is serving a life sentence, has long argued the fire was accidental. In 2012, the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted his request for an independent examination of evidence from the July 1989 blaze that killed 20-year-old Ji Yun Lee at a retreat in northeastern Pennsylvania.
"We are excited, and we are trying not to be too excited because there are still a few steps that need to be taken," longtime defense attorney Peter Goldberger said Friday. "Justice sometimes comes slowly, and you have to get used to that in our business."
Monroe County District Attorney David Christine said he will fight to uphold the jury's verdict. He said that while fire science has undoubtedly progressed, "we don't see that as a reason to question the verdict of the jury, and our obligation is to defend it until the court, with finality, decides it should be reversed."
Lee moved from South Korea to New York City and started a clothing business. The family was at a religious retreat in the Pocono Mountains when their cabin caught fire.
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