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This article was published 18/3/2019 (514 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A veteran criminal defence lawyer is again sounding the alarm over police procedures after his client was charged and sent to jail in a homicide case where the victim’s cause of death is undetermined.
Juhyun Park, 44, is accused of first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Eunjee Kim, 41. Kim was found unconscious in an apartment suite on Daer Boulevard early Jan. 9.
Winnipeg police initially accused Park of manslaughter, but upgraded the charge on Feb. 8 without offering an explanation.
If convicted, Park would get a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
His lawyer, Martin Glazer, told the Free Press an autopsy has revealed no anatomical cause of Kim’s death.
Meanwhile, Glazer said he was told crucial toxicology tests that are underway at an out-of-province RCMP laboratory could take up to six months to come in.
Glazer said the delay shows there’s a systemic problem that police should consider in homicide cases in which the cause of death isn’t immediately determined.
Glazer believes police should have waited for conclusive results before charging Park.
"If the scientific investigation is incomplete, then the overall investigation is incomplete," he said. "In my view, you have a wrongful arrest in this case because it’s premature."
Park has no criminal record. He remained at the crime scene until police arrived and was injured by a stab wound in the leg, Glazer said.
He faces the prospect of many more months in jail awaiting trial if he’s denied bail. Park came to Canada from Korea in 2017 on a student visa and was studying to improve his English. Kim, his wife of 17 years, had only been in Winnipeg a couple of days before she died, Glazer said.
Glazer has emailed the Manitoba Prosecution Service requesting more information about how Kim died. No further information on this point has been forthcoming from the Crown, he said.
"Given the absence of a cause of death in this case, I am renewing my request for a stay of proceedings," Glazer wrote to the Crown on Feb. 12. "As you can appreciate once the toxicology results are available and if it turns out that my client’s wife did not die as a result of foul play, then he will have spent a substantial period of time in custody for no reason," Glazer wrote.
He has urged the Crown to either stay the charge — giving authorities a year to keep investigating and then reinstate the charge if warranted — or consent to Park’s release on bail.
Glazer said the Crown has refused.
A bail hearing is set for Tuesday. Park must convince a judge he can be released into the community before his trial.
In early February, the provincial medical examiner’s office said testing on biological samples will take four to six months.
"The problem in this case is a lack of medical diagnosis, and without it, police aren’t given the tools they need to make the final call," Glazer said.
The Supreme Court of Canada has said police should err on the side of caution and keep open minds before laying charges.
"Don’t presume the cause of death is nefarious, that’s what I’m saying," Glazer said.
He said he was not in a position to discuss other evidence police may have gathered, and he deferred to them.
Winnipeg police said Friday it’s not uncommon to lay homicide-related charges before autopsy results are available.
"Charges are based on the totality of the circumstances, and both autopsy and toxicology results are just part of the overall investigation," Const. Rob Carver wrote in an email.
The Manitoba Prosecution Service said Crown attorneys assess a case’s legal elements and quality of evidence before laying charges or proceeding on ones laid by police.