Presumed innocentThere are many complaints about the denial of an arrest warrant for fraudulent art curator Shin Jeong-ah. The prosecution and the people seem to be surprised. They had been quite certain that the warrant would be issued because Shin’s misdeeds have been in the spotlight. But we believe that the court’s denial of a warrant was the right decision.
The prosecution wrote that Shin was charged with forging official documents, submitting the documents, hindering official processes and interference with government officials in the execution of their duties.
Even though Shin denies the charges against her it seems that, as the court said, the prosecution already has sufficient evidence on these charges so there is no risk that evidence will be destroyed in the process of the investigation or trial. Most of those involved in the case are banned from traveling overseas and Shin’s face has become well-known to the public, so there is little risk that she will run away.
We do not mean to defend Shin. Shin herself said she was rather disappointed because she preferred to be kept in custody and even gave up her right to a warrant hearing.
We maintain that the law is more important than public opinion about the case. Korea’s Constitution and criminal law require the presumption of innocence and stipulate that investigations should be conducted without the detention of suspects. But these principles are not applied in reality. The court has only recently encouraged prosecutors not to detain the accused before they were found guilty in trials. Before that, 50 percent of the accused had trials while being held in custody. That figure is 10 times higher than in Germany and three times higher than in Japan. Even though the law states that the accused must be presumed innocent before a guilty verdict, detaining the accused is used as a form of punishment.
Another problem is that investigators want to detain the accused for convenience. If the accused is kept in custody, the investigation can be carried out more efficiently. But depriving a person of freedom is a grave limitation on one’s right to a proper defense. In Korea, only 1 percent of those accused is found innocent. Some argue the figure is low because the accused cannot effectively defend themselves. Law enforcement agencies must stop the old-fashioned custom of detaining the accused for investigation. They must develop scientific investigative methods and the capacity to gather objective evidence to prove the accused guilty.
The people also must have a more mature understanding of the law. When somebody merely faces charges, it is wrong to judge them in a hasty fashion and say he or she must be held in custody until they repent.
The principle of the law is that we should not make false judgments that condemn an innocent person.