A U.S. citizen was sentenced on Friday by the Central District Court of Seoul to 20 years imprisonment for the brutal killing of a South Korean man nearly two decades ago. The murder case has been highly publicized in South Korea for years after Arthur Patterson was accused of fatally stabbing a university student at a Seoul Burger King restaurant in 1997. The victim, Jo Jung-pil, was found dead in a pool of blood in a Burger King bathroom, The New York Times reported.
Arthur Patterson, now aged 36, was extradited from the United States in September so he could face trial in Seoul. According to a report from the AFP, Patterson, who was the 17-year-old son of a U.S. military contractor at the time of the murder, had denied any involvement in the crime. The killing occurred in the Itaewon district, which is known to be a nightlife hotspot, near the U.S. military base in Seoul.
Prosecutors indicted two suspects: an 18-year-old Korean-American Edward Lee and Arthur Patterson. The Associated Press wrote that Lee, who was with Patterson at the time of the murder, was initially sentenced to life in prison for killing the 22-year-old student. However, Lee was later acquitted due to lack of evidence.
The case attracted a lot of media coverage due to its sensitive nature as a crime allegedly committed by foreigners, particularly because of their connection to the United States military. In 2009, a popular movie based on the murder was released, which brought the case back into the spotlight. The case has been a mystery for years because Lee blamed Patterson for the murder and Patterson blamed Lee.
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Lee was initially indicted on a murder charge, while Patterson was considered to be his accomplice and prosecutors indicted him on lesser charges, including destruction of evidence. Prosecutors did not offer a motive for the killing except to say the two friends were challenging each other to kill a man with a pocketknife. In the subsequent trial, Patterson was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He was released in 1998 in an annual government amnesty. Lee was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but he was later acquitted in a retrial ordered by the Supreme Court.
Prosecutors said the men did not know each other, and argued that Patterson had shown a “devil-like brutality” in stabbing Jo to death for no apparent reason. Patterson was formally charged with the murder in his absence in 2011, which eventually lead to his extradition. The U.S. court allowed Patterson’s extradition to Korea in 2012 but he submitted multiple habeas corpus petitions. The last petitions were rejected by a U.S. court in June in 2014 and in May 2015.
After the murder case, Jo Jong-pil’s parents requested a re-investigation, but the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they couldn’t find Patterson, which slowed down the process.
“The court decided on a life sentence, but in view of the defendant’s age, of being under 18 at the time, the sentence will be 20 years in prison,” Judge Shim Kyu-hong said, according to the Washington Post, citing a report from the Reuters news agency. “There is credibility in statements made by Edward Lee, an accomplice, that [he] witnessed Patterson stabbing the victim,” the judge explained.”Lee incited Patterson to murder Cho and led the way into the bathroom [where the incident took place.]”
The penalty is the maximum provided by the South Korean Criminal Code for crimes committed by minors. The condemned Californian has one week to appeal the verdict, a court spokesman said.
[Photo via Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images News]