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Han Tak Lee South Korean Appeal Case

Han Tak Lee: A Winning Appeal

If one were to judge the justice system based on cinema or television two conclusions could be drawn rather quickly. First, the mysteries can always be solved through the work of passionate law enforcement agents. Second, the advanced technology available to law enforcement means that definite answers are always given and they are always given immediately. Anyone who has come into contact with the non-televised version of the judicial system will immediately recognize that these two statements are entirely inaccurate. Investigations, if they are ever concluded, are concluded over a lengthy period of time. They rely on the science that is available during that time and science is only dependable to a certain extent. As we move forward as a society into newly developed areas of science we are able to discredit previously relied upon theories. For some convicted of criminal activity, discrediting unworthy theories of science can make a world of difference.

Mr. Lee’s Retreat

In 1989 Mr. Han Tak Lee was a South Korean native who had earned United States citizenship. He was living in New York City with his 20-year-old daughter. His daughter was mentally ill. The pair took a religious retreat in the Pennsylvania Poconos Mountains. While there, Lee’s daughter died in their cabin after it caught fire. Lee has insisted since that time that the fire was accidental and not murder. Prosecutors insisted that this was a lie and Lee deliberately set the blaze to secure his daughter’s death. Lee, now 80 years old, has spent the last 14 years behind bars after being convicted of murder.

The Evidence

During Lee’s trial prosecutors called a state police fire marshal to testify that the fire was clearly set intentionally. The marshal testified that the wood in the cabin was charred and blistered, that the windows had several tiny fractures, and that he identified at least eight different points where the fire originated. According to the scientific community at that time, this was evidence of arson. In addition the prosecution presented evidence that Lee maintained a stock demeanor even after learning of his daughter’s death and one expert’s opinion that she may have been strangled prior to the fire. Lee was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The Appeal

This week a federal appeals court in Pennsylvania refused to reinstate Lee’s murder conviction, which secures his freedom at last. This past year Lee was exonerated and freed after an appeal addressing the overhaul of the scientific theories used to convict him initially. The court discredited the evidence brought forward relating to Lee’s calm demeanor by citing cultural taboos against showing emotion in public. The court further discredited any opinion of strangulation citing that it “was supported by very little forensic evidence.” Finally the court remarked on the revolutionary changes in the understanding of distinguishing between accidental fires and arson. The magistrate judge who granted Lee’s request for an independent review of the evidence determined that the evidence used to convict him was based on “little more than superstition.”

We at Brownstone Law deeply regret the years Mr. Lee lost while attempting to prove his innocence. We are passionate about the appellate process and have the knowledge and skill required to successfully manage an appeal. If you have questions about how to file a criminal appeal contact our team today.

Federal Appeal Lawyers In Antitrust
Author Name
Robert L Sirianni
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