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Kenzi Snider acquittal in Jamie Penich murder upheld by South Korea court

Prosecutors may still appeal case to Korean Supreme Court

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

By Soo-Jeong Lee, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea -- An American woman accused of killing a fellow U.S. student in South Korea in 2001 had her acquittal upheld by an appeals court today.

Former Marshall University student Kenzi Snider from St. Cloud, Minn., cries after her acquittal in the murder of Jamie Penich was upheld by an appeals court. She is the first U.S. citizen to be extradited to South Korea to face trial.(Lee Jin-man, Associated Press)
Click photo for larger image.

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South Korea prosecutor appeals verdict in 2001 killing of Pitt student

"It feels really, really good," said 22-year-old Kenzi Snider, who cried and hugged her mother, Heath Bozonie, when the verdict was read out in a Seoul courtroom.

Snider was acquitted in the Seoul High Court, and had also been acquitted by a lower court in June. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a prosecutor said he would consider whether to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. Prosecutors have a week to decide.

"I'll get excited when it's all over," said Snider, who was accused of beating to death 21-year-old Jamie Penich, a University of Pittsburgh student from Derry Township, Westmoreland County, allegedly over unwanted sexual advances. Both were exchange students in South Korea at the time of the killing in a Seoul hotel room on March 18, 2001.

Prosecutors had asked the appeals court to jail Snider for seven years on a manslaughter charge.

Snider was arrested by FBI agents in West Virginia in February 2002 and sent to Seoul in December that year, becoming the first U.S. citizen to be extradited to South Korea.

In acquitting Snider, the South Korean legal system refused to accept as evidence a confession she made to FBI investigators. Under South Korean law, confessions are only admissible if made to South Korean prosecutors. Also, Snider later argued that her confession was coerced.

Judge Jun Bong-jin said the confession was not "in accordance with Korean law" and that there was a high possibility that someone other than Snider committed the murder.

Jun cited a statement by the hotel owner that a white man with blood on his trousers was seen leaving the hotel around the time of the killing. He also said the hair recovered from the scene, and the size of the shoes believed to be those of the murderer, didn't match Snider's.

FBI and U.S. military investigators got involved after South Korean police thought American soldiers might be suspects. The hotel where Penich was stomped to death is in Itaewon, an entertainment district beside the U.S. military headquarters in Seoul.

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