Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Let's Play Criminals

Dear Korean,

In the movie Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, there was a scene where the main character had to reenact her crimes while cuffed and masked, with a slew of photographers around her. I was wondering if there is any real reason behind this. Is it simply for dramatic effect or does it serve a real purpose?

Curious White Girl

If you don't know what Curious White Girl is talking about, it looks like this:
Serial murder Kang Ho-soon, reenacting the disfigurement and burial of his victims. c. 2009

It is not necessarily typical, although not unusual, for Korean police to have the alleged criminal re-enact his crime at the site of the crime. Reenactment is a part of the police's field investigation, and the police can technically order any criminal defendant to participate in the reenactment. But since reenactment costs time and police budget, the police tends to save reenactments for significant cases, like murder. 

As a result, crime reenactment does resemble a media circus, with a legion of cameras trying to capture the most sensational moment. The picture above is the criminal reenactment of Kang Ho-soon, a serial killer who murdered at least 10 women between 2005 and 2008. At the time, Kang's crime caused such a sensation that many Koreans who shared the same name filed a court petition for name change. The picture above captures a chilling moment: Kang reenacting how he severed the digits of his victims before burying them, to make identification more difficult. For his crimes, Kang was sentenced to death.

Yet despite the sensationalism, crime reenactments do serve real purposes in criminal justice. The most important purpose, counter-intuitively, is the protection of the defendant who made a confession. By reenacting the crime, the police can prove to the court (through the prosecutor) that the defendant's confession is not falsely obtained, because the confession is consistent with the reenactment which gives a plausible account as to how the crime actually, physically happened. Reenactments can also reveal additional evidence, which may serve as a basis for additional crimes and/or crimes of a higher degree.

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