Supreme Court upholds Arthur Patterson’s 20-year sentence for Itaewon murder

Posted on : 2017-01-26 17:20 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
38-year-old American convicted of 1997 murder of a 22-year-old university student
Arthur Patterson
Arthur Patterson

South Korea’s highest court confirmed a 20-year prison sentence against Arthur John Patterson, 38, who was put on trial after being identified as the true criminal in the Itaewon murder case.

On Jan. 25, the third panel of the Supreme Court (with Justice Kim Jae-hyeong presiding) announced that it was upholding the ruling of the district court that convicted Patterson of murder and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. The court did not accept the arguments of Patterson’s attorney that the sentence was too severe or that the prosecutors had overstepped their authority when they filed charges against him.

Patterson was indicted on the charge of stabbing to death a 22-year-old university student surnamed Cho in the bathroom of a Burger King in the Itaewon neighborhood of Seoul’s Yongsan District around 10 pm on Apr. 3, 1997. Initially believing that the murder had been carried out by Edward Lee, 38, who had been with Patterson on the scene of the crime, the prosecutors charged Lee with murder and Patterson with destroying evidence.

Lee was found guilty in the lower court and on appeal and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but the Supreme Court remanded the case and instructed the lower courts to exonerate Lee because of the lack of evidence. During Lee’s retrial in 1999, an appellate court cleared Lee of charges on the assumption that “he had been a witness.”

Patterson had been sentenced to between one and one and a half years in prison and was serving that sentence when he was given a special pardon on Aug. 15, 1998, and released from prison. In 1999, he fled the country, taking advantage of the prosecutors’ failure to extend his travel ban.

When the prosecutors reopened their investigation in 2011, Patterson was identified as the actual culprit. He was extradited to South Korea in Sept. 2015 to stand trial once again. In Jan. 2016, a district court sentenced him to 20 years in prison, noting “the enormity of the crime of murdering a random stranger for no reason at all.”

According to the Juvenile Act, 15 years is the maximum prison sentence that can be given to someone convicted of committing a crime below the age of 18, and Patterson was 17 years old at the time of the crime. But the court sentenced him to 20 years in prison, applying a special law for prosecuting violent offenders that enables a maximum of 20 years for criminals younger than 18.

The court also concluded that Lee was Patterson’s accomplice, but Lee was not prosecuted according to the “non bis in idem” legal principle, which states that the same crime cannot be prosecuted twice. The appeals court had also upheld the lower court’s decision.

By Hyun So-eun, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to []

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles