Northbrook family rejoices, thanks community for acquittal
About 100 people joined the Koh family of Northbrook Sunday at the the New Life Church in Palatine to thank God for Hyungseok Koh's release from Cook County Jail and his verdict of innocent. They also shared a community "thanksgiving meal" presented by the Kohs in gratitude for the church members' support. Photo\Pat Krochmal
Updated: February 11, 2013 6:06AM
PALATINE — The Hyungseok Koh family of Northbrook gratefully – and sometimes tearfully – thanked God Sunday at the New Life Church in Palatine for Hyungseok’s freedom.
Hyungseok, his wife Eunsook and their daughter Helen also professed their gratitude to a long list of supporters who belonged to the church, as well as many who did not, for praying that justice would be done.
About 100 people attended the service, which was held in Korean, with some English translations. Afterward, everyone shared a “thanksgiving dinner.”
Hyungseok had been accused of the April 16, 2009, stabbing death of his 22-year-old son, Paul, in their Birch Road home.
Prosecutors said Hyungseok murdered his son, because of his unacceptable behavior, while defense attorneys argued that Paul killed himself because of mental health problems, including depression.
Koh was found innocent of all charges on Dec. 17 at the Cook County courthouse in Skokie, during a jury trial in front of Circuit Court Judge Garrett Howard.
“It was because of all the prayers that God sent an army of angels – our attorneys – to help the jury see the truth in a corrupt society where things don’t always go right,” Hyungseok said in Korean with Helen translating his words into English.
“There are still hurdles to go through, but we are so grateful for all the prayers and support through such tragic and traumatic times.”
Helen noted that the family has been shocked by the fact that the criminal justice system in the country they adopted is so flawed.
“Our family immigrated to the United States of America during the 1980s, the country that values the freedom and rights of citizens, to make our American dream come true,” the Kohs told the church community in Korean, according to an English translation.
“As many immigrants have done, we have worked very hard in government jobs and businesses as American citizens to achieve our dream, not violating any law or code of conduct in Illinois or elsewhere.”
However, when Paul died, the family was “drained mentally and emotionally,” she said.
“We were utterly deprived of our civil rights and legal protections because of wrongful arrest and accusations, along with no efforts to investigate to find and show the truth,” she said.
And according to the translated statement presented by the family, within hours police announced that Hyungseok Koh had confessed that he killed his son, although Hyungseok never did.
“The family had to face some harsh criticism and doubts from some close people who did not care about knowing the truth. Defamation of character was caused onto an innocent person and family,” the statement read.
“Things kept happening and we didn’t understand what was happening. We had no experience with the law,” Helen said.
“My father was taken from his family and imprisoned for three years and eight months – 1,341 days. He couldn’t even go to Paul’s funeral, which was very hard on him. He also has health issues that must be checked out.”
After clergy led the faithful in prayers and hymns, the Koh’s personally thanked their attorneys – Terri Mascherin, Andrew Vail, Daniel Fenske, Wade Thomson, Kyle Palazzolo, all of Jenner & Block, and lawyer Elliot Zinger – who were sitting in a front row. The Kohs also presented them with bouquets of colorful flowers.
“Each one of us would have given our life for Paul and none of us would have ever hurt him,” Helen said.
“We are still grieving his death and will spend time to restore peace in our family, and share love for one another. There is much healing and grieving to be done as a family.”
The village of Northbrook would not comment on the issues, because of a pending lawsuit against the police department.