Witness: Patterson killed victim in ’97 murder

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Witness: Patterson killed victim in ’97 murder

The first hearing in the murder trial against 35-year-old American Arthur Patterson opened Wednesday at the Seoul Central District Court with the prosecution’s primary witness testifying that the defendant fatally stabbed the victim.

Patterson was extradited to Korea in September to face charges in a renewed investigation into the Itaewon murder case nearly 20 years ago.

He and his friend, Edward Lee, were originally accused of killing Hongik University student Cho Jung-pil at a fast food restaurant on April 3, 1997, in Itaewon, a popular foreigner-friendly district in central Seoul.

Cho was found dead in the bathroom of a Burger King, stabbed nine times in his neck and chest. The two men were both in the restaurant at the time of the murder and both pinpointed the other in the killing.

Lee, who was eventually convicted for the murder but later acquitted of those charges in 1998 by the Supreme Court due to a lack of evidence, took to the stand Wednesday afternoon to claim that it was Patterson who was responsible for the murder that night.

It was the first time in 17 years that the two men were reunited.

Speaking through an interpreter, Lee said that he was shocked when he saw Patterson stabbing the victim and immediately turned around.

Earlier in the day, the prosecution insisted that Lee had given a knife to Patterson, who checked the restroom stalls before killing Cho.

“It’s difficult to believe Patterson’s statements are more convincing than Lee’s,” one of the prosecutors said. “Lee explained the situation in the restroom in detail and what Patterson said is more or less inconsistent.”

Prosecutors said Patterson could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted because he was a minor at the time of the murder, making him ineligible for the death penalty or life imprisonment.

His legal attorney, however, still insisted it was Lee who killed the victim.

“Lee came into the restroom first with the knife just like the prosecutors explained,” said Oh Byeong-ju, Patterson’s lawyer. “But it’s not true that Lee suggested that Patterson stab Cho.”

Oh added that Lee was the sole offender.

The victim’s mother, Lee Bok-su, 73, also attended the hearing Wednesday and begged the court to issue a heavy punishment.

“I can’t really say anything with the criminal who killed my son right in front of me,” she said. “[Patterson] must be strictly punished, possibly with the maximum sentence [allowed by law].”

“As I sit here and listen to what they are saying, it’s exactly the same trial as it was 18 years ago,” she continued. “They are pointing to each other as the murderer, but someone with a conscience wouldn’t be able to do that.”

BY KIM BONG-MOON [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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