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Edmund Ko Trial: 2000

Jealous Rival, Ominous Silence

Defendant: Edmund Ko
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyer: Jack Litman
Chief Prosecutors: Ann Prunty, Lisa Friel
Judge: Harold B. Beeler
Place: New York, New York
Date of Trial: May 31-July 27, 2000
Verdict: Guilty
Sentence: 25 years to life

SIGNIFICANCE: The right to silence is enshrined in the American constitution. Here, two individuals availed themselves of this right, with drastically different outcomes.

When Edmund Ko split up with his girlfriend Hyesung Lynda Hong in 1997, the break was amicable, good-natured even. The three-year romance that had blossomed in their graduate days at Cornell University had run its course, and it was now time to move on. For Ko this meant a slot on the executive training program at Macy's department store, valuable preparation for when he took over his family's multimillion-dollar leather goods business in Korea; while Hong pursued her career dreams at Columbia Law School.

Hong was an excellent student with a big future, but it never came to pass. On March 20, 1998, a close friend, baffled by Hong's unusual telephone silence, called at her Morningside Heights apartment. Unable to get an answer he picked the lock. What he found inside the blood-spattered apartment was the stuff of slasher movies.

Within 24 hours Ko was arrested and later charged with murder.

When the trial finally came to court on May 31, 2000, Assistant District Attorney Ann Prunry painted a lurid picture of Hong's death. "Her body was cold, stiff and hard; dried blood marked her bed, her carpet, her clothes … [Ko] carried out a cold-blooded and premeditated murder by slitting her throat from one side to the other."

If that were not enough, over strident defense objections, Prunty then played a harrowing police video of the crime scene that showed Hong, lying face down on the floor of her apartment, amidst blood-drenched textbooks and papers. "The crime scene alone will prove to you that Edmund Ko killed her," said Prunty.

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