Koh’s lawsuit against police goes forward
Koh Hyungseok was recently found not guilty by a Cook County jury of the murder of his son, Paul Koh, in their Northbrook home. | File photo
Updated: January 28, 2013 3:08PM
NORTHBROOK — A federal lawsuit alleging violation of the constitutional rights of Hyungseok Koh and his wife, Eunsook, filed against eight Northbrook police officers and one Wheeling police officer will now move forward.
The suit, filed in 2011 by Elliott R. Zinger & Associates of Chicago, had been stayed until a verdict was reached in the case.
Koh, a Northbrook resident, had been accused of the April 16, 2009, stabbing death of his son, Paul, in their Birch Road home. And on Dec. 17 in the Cook County Court House in Skokie, Koh was found innocent of all charges during a jury trial in front of Circuit Court Judge Garrett Howard.
Prosecutors had contended that Hyungseok had murdered his son, because of his irresponsible behavior, while defense attorneys argued that Paul killed himself because of depression and other mental health challenges.
Koh, now 60, had been held almost three years in Cook County Jail on a $5 million bond until he was released Dec. 18.
“I was waiting for him at the door at 1:30 a.m. He was very happy and he is looking forward to getting his life back,” Zinger said.
The suit filed by Zinger stated that about 3:30 a.m. on April 16 Koh twice called 911, hysterically reporting in broken English that he needed emergency help for his son. Police arrived to find Paul dead, with large lacerations to his head, throat, face, chest and hands. Next to him was a large knife.
“Large amounts of blood were found in the dining room, living room and foyer, but no tracks of bloody footprints were discovered either going up to the bedroom or leaving the residence,” according to the suit.
At the time, Paul was 22 years old, 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed about 195 pounds, while his father, then 56, was 5 feet 6 inches tall and about 160 pounds. But there was not a single serious wound, cut, bruise or abrasion found on Hyungseok’s body, nor a significant amount of blood on his clothing, the suit stated.
Police had no forensic evidence that “would have led a reasonable person to believe that Hyung Seok or his wife, Eunsook, committed any crime prior to officers transporting them to the police station,” according to the suit.
Koh, who was born in Korea and speaks limited English, had been interrogated for several hours without a Korean interpreter. Only Wheeling Officer Sung Phil Kim, who is of Korean descent, but admittedly not fluid in the language, came to his “assistance,” the suit said.
Koh was never told he was free to leave the police station and not allowed to consult with his family, friends or pastor, though he asked to do so several times, according to the suit. And Koh was detained for about nine hours before his attorney arrived and halted the interrogation, it added.
Terri Mascherin of Jenner and Block, who defended Koh during his trial, said jury members told her after the trial that they decided he was innocent because there was no physical evidence connecting Koh to his son’s death.
“I hope that Mr. Koh will be able to regain his normal life, reacquaint himself with his family and adjust from a very traumatic period,” she added.
The legal suit alleged that the Kohs suffered violations of their constitutional rights, emotional anxiety, humiliation, fear, monetary loss, pain and suffering, Because of the alleged false arrest, coercive interrogation and conspiracy against Koh and his wife, the suit demanded a jury trial and a judgement of $100,000 compensatory damages, as well as $50,000 punitive damages, plus attorneys’ fees and costs.
Police Chief Charles Wernick did not return calls for comment. Cheryl Fayne-dePersio, the village’s communications manager, said that the village will not make a statement because of pending litigation.
Named in the suit besides Wernick were: Detectives Mark Graf and John Ustich, Commanders Roger Eisen and Scott Dunham, and Officers Matthew Johnson, Bryan Meents and Keith Celia. Also named was Wheeling Police Officer Sung Phil Kim.