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Flames in the Hospital: Exorcism Gone Wrong or Premeditated Attack?

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A South Korean man in his 40s was charged with attempted murder in his second trial for throwing burning napkins at his hospitalized mother-in-law, claiming he was performing an exorcism.

On the 18th, the Seoul District Court sentenced Kim to two and a half years in prison for causing bodily harm. He was found guilty of the same charges during the first trial.

Last May, Kim set napkins on fire with a lighter and threw them at his mother-in-law who was hospitalized at the time. He was charged with attempted murder.

After the crime, he left the hospital room immediately and his mother-in-law was rescued by the family of another patient nearby. She suffered burns to her head.

Kim claimed that there was no intent to commit the crime, saying, “While performing the exorcism, I threw the napkin into the air, and the fire spread when my mother-in-law suddenly moved.”

He also claimed that he was mentally impaired at the time due to an overdose of medication with hallucinogenic side effects.

The key factor of this trial is his intent.

The first trial acknowledged the charge of arson causing bodily harm, stating, “Kim was fully aware that the fire on the tissue could easily spread to the objects nearby, including the victim and the blankets.”

However, the court dismissed attempted murder charges and reasoned, “If he had intended to kill the victim, he would have done it discreetly and used rather a powerful weapon. We cannot definitively say that he lit the fire with the intent to kill.”

The second trial also followed the first trial’s judgment, stating that it could not definitively determine the intent to kill.

The judges in the second trial stated, “As the hospital was equipped with fire extinguishers and staffed around the clock, anyone can acknowledge that fire could be easily put out.”

They also noted that the defendant took no additional steps to spread the fire, and did not prevent a third party from entering the room to extinguish the fire, leading them to dismiss the charge of attempted murder.

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