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[Newsmaker] Prosecutors, police at odds over possible 1980s wrongful murder conviction

Police and prosecutors have issued conflicting views on a controversial forensics report that was used as key evidence in convicting a 53-year-old man surnamed Yun of the eighth of the notorious Hwaseong serial killings.

Police on Wednesday disputed prosecutors’ suggestion that the 1989 forensic report that led to the suspected wrongful conviction had been a “fabrication,” saying the tested samples had not been manipulated.

This follows a statement from the prosecutors Tuesday in which they rebutted police findings that the report contained serious but unintentional errors on the part of a National Forensic Service official.

“The police announcement that no manipulation was involved in the hair analysis is inaccurate,” the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office said Tuesday.


Hwaseong serial killings investigation headquarters at Gyeonggi Nambu Provincial Police Agency (Kim Arin/The Korea Herald)
Hwaseong serial killings investigation headquarters at Gyeonggi Nambu Provincial Police Agency (Kim Arin/The Korea Herald)

Prosecutors said the forensic service had based the report on hair samples collected belatedly instead of ones found at the crime scene, and that it had used samples found at the scene for all the other suspects but Yun.

In a Nov. 30 interview with The Korea Herald, Yun said he was asked to submit hair samples on several occasions 10 months after the murder.

Prosecutors added that the forensic service official’s role in manipulating the results will be expounded upon in a memo to be presented to the court.

The court has asked the prosecution for its opinion on a pending retrial for Yun. Claiming innocence, Yun filed for a new trial last month to clear his name. He spent 19 1/2 years behind bars until he was released in 2009 on parole.

The Gyeonggi Nambu Provincial Police Agency, which is directing the investigation into the case, said police were not seeking punishment of the forensics analyst, but that they may look into what led up to the flawed report.

Police said, however, that the forensics analyst in charge had followed due procedures. The errors were the result of professional misjudgment, as opposed to deliberate manipulation as suggested by prosecutors, police said.

During Tuesday’s briefing, police also said they would refer to the case, widely known as the “Hwaseong serial killings,” as the “Lee Chun-jae serial murders” after the cold case’s prime suspect, who admitted guilt in October.

“Our director, Park Nam-kyu, said the service will find an opportunity to clarify its position once the investigation is finalized,” National Forensic Service information officer Kwon Soon-chul told The Korea Herald. “Media reports on the forensic report’s manipulation are far from the truth,” he said.

By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)

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