October 01, 2014

Jenner & Block is being honored by the Korean American Bar Association of Chicago (KABA) for its successful defense at trial of Mr. Hyungseok Koh against the charge of first-degree murder in the 2009 death of his 22-year-old son.

In announcing that the firm will receive the bar association’s Distinguished Service Award, KABA President Paula Kim noted, “The defense of Mr. Koh touched upon multiple issues important to both the Korean and legal communities to ensure justice is administered in a diverse society, including the importance of language access and cultural awareness in investigations and legal proceedings.”

In 2012, a firm team represented Mr. Koh, pro bono, in a 13-day trial in the Cook County Criminal Court that focused on the meaning and effect of a videotaped statement he gave to police shortly after his son was found dead, during which, prosecutors argued, he confessed to killing the young man.   The team persuaded the jury that, due to language difficulties and the failure of police to provide a capable interpreter, Mr. Koh, a native of South Korea, did not understand either the interrogation process or the questions clearly. 

The defense also was able to exclude evidence from a prosecution witness who testified he had heard Mr. Koh and his son quarrel on the phone, with the witness saying that the father had sounded “very demanding.”  The conversation had been in Korean, which the witness did not speak or understand.

After fewer than two hours of deliberations, the jury found Mr. Koh not guilty.

The Koh team was led by Partners Terri L. Mascherin, Wade A. Thomson and Andrew W. Vail and included Associates Daniel T. Fenske and Laura E.B. Hulce.

The award will be presented at KABA’s 21st Annual Banquet on October 25, 2014 at the Union League Club in Chicago.  To learn more about the event, please click here.