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Court blocks most of police interviews in college professor’s murder trial

DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Court of Appeals has ruled most of the statements a former Simpson College professor made to police during an investigation into her husband’s 2020 death will remain suppressed when her case goes to trial.

Gowun Park is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping in connection to her husband Sung Woo Nam’s death on February 15, 2020. Court documents claim Park used zip-ties to restrain her husband to a chair at their West Des Moines condo and “stuffed an item of clothing in Mr. Nam’s mouth to prevent him from yelling and placed duct tape over his mouth. She further duct-taped a towel over his head, covering his eyes.” Park says her husband agreed to be tied up anytime he became violent.

Park called 911 after Nam became unconscious. When officials arrived, they found Park performing CPR though Nam’s lips were blue and he had no vital signs. Nam was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

After being charged in the case, Park filed a motion to suppress her statements to police at the condo the night of the incident and those made in four subsequent interviews with investigators. She claimed she had not been Mirandized before some of the interviews, and that police officers made promises of leniency in order to get her to talk. In May of 2021 the judge in the case agreed, saying Park “did not knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waive those rights prior to the interrogation.” The judge’s ruling said statements she had made to police should be suppressed.

The state appealed the ruling, and Wednesday the Iowa Court of Appeals released its decision in the case. It upheld most of the district court’s earlier ruling but did make one change saying the statements Park made to police while still at her condo, after calling 911, should not be suppressed.

In the ruling, the Court of Appeals cited deceptive statements made by police officers multiple times – including when Park repeatedly asked about her husband’s condition and officers, who knew at that time he had died, asserted they did not know and would notify her as soon as they had information.

“The detectives wove their false assertions about the condition of Park’s husband into their reading of Park’s Miranda rights, and they repeatedly underscored the urgency of speaking to them in order to facilitate his treatment. Their deception amounted to a due process violation,” the ruling stated.

A trial date for Gowun Park has not yet been set.

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