The adoptive mother of a South Korean toddler was charged with murder charges by the prosecutors on Wednesday over her alleged involvement on the death of the 16-month-old girl in October.
Jeong-in, a name given to her by her biological mother, died at a hospital in southwestern Seoul last October 13.
Jeong-in’s 34-year-old adoptive mother, known with the surname Jang, was initially suspected on lesser charge of child abuse that has led to death. The child’s adoptive father Ahn, on the other hand, is also subject for trial on child abuse allegations. Murder charges were only been pressed against the mother who was under the custody of authorities since November.
The murder charges surfaced after forensic experts reexamined the case. According to them, the adoptive mother most likely meant to kill Jeong-in or at least been conscious of the probability that her actions could lead to the child’s death.
The autopsy did by doctors also reveal that killing Jeong-in appears to be willful or murder by carelessness. An initial autopsy of the child led to findings that her death was caused by severe injuries to her pancreas and a damaged mesentery, an organ that connects the intestines to the abdominal wall.
In a written statement, the Korean Pediatrics Society told the prosecution that murder charges could be pressed against the adoptive parents. The society slammed the adoptive mother’s claim that the child has died due to an accidental fall, and cited Jeong-in’s ruptured pancreas as a sign of willful injury. Jang earlier said she dropped Jeong-in and hit the chair as she fell.
“The main emphasis is that the defendant stepped on the victim with strong force even though she knew the victim could die from being hit with strong force after being continuously abused,” the prosecution stated during the trial.
“We decided to have murder as a primary charge based on results of discussion with forensic examiners, and with that we are submitting autopsy results and opinions from the medical examiner in charge,” it added.
Despite the evidence, Jang pleaded not guilty to the murder and fatal child abuse charges. Her lawyer said “the defendant did not intentionally cause the victim’s death” and “did not apply any force strong enough to damage organs.”
Jang’s legal representatives recognized that the defendant’s action may have instigated fractures to Jeoing-in’s clavicle and ribs. However, they refuse to admit that Jang was accountable for breaking the child’s skull and hipbone.
Early this month, Jeong-in case was aired on a TV news program, triggering online protests over her death and to hold her adoptive parents accountable.
People demanding murder charges and capital punishment for the two have assembled in front of the Seoul Southern District Court on Wednesday.
Only 11 members of the public were admitted to the courtroom due to coronavirus-related protocols. Some 40 were allowed to monitor the trial from another room.
Crowds slammed Ahn as he left the courtroom while authorities tried to maintain their distance away from the accused.
The prosecution requested the court’s consent to call in the 17 people as witnesses on the next trial slated February 17. Included in the 17 are the medical examiners and Jang’s neighbor.