Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Courthouse News Service
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Acquitted Student Can’t Sue Agents, Court Says

(CN) - An American exchange student who was acquitted of murdering her classmate in South Korea was not a victim of malicious prosecution by the U.S. authorities who extradited her there, the 4th Circuit ruled.

FBI agent Seung Lee interrogated Kenzi Snider, who repeatedly confessed to the murder. Snider said she had a sexual encounter with her female roommate, Jamie Penich, which she said resulted in Snider attacking Penich and killing her.

Snider said at the extradition hearing that the agents coerced the confession from her. She said she was "not confident" that her confession was accurate, and when asked again if she killed Penich, Snider replied, "Not by the memories I hold true."

The magistrate judge ruled that the confession was not coerced, and Snider was sent to Korea for trial.

Snider was acquitted, and she sued Lee and the U.S. government for a variety of constitutional and other violations, all of which were dismissed in district court with the exception of her malicious prosecution claim against Lee.

On appeal, Judge Niemeyer of the Richmond, Va.-based federal appeals court ruled that the malicious prosecution case should also be dismissed.

"Because Snider did not identify, in the circumstances of this case, a well-established constitutional violation, we conclude that Agent Lee is entitled to qualified immunity and reverse," Niemeyer wrote.

"Snider may not rely on her acquittal by the South Korean courts to satisfy her burden of demonstrating termination of the proceedings in her favor in connection with a seizure in the United States. The seizure in the United States was for purposes of conducting the extradition hearing, not the murder trial, and the extradition hearing did not terminate in Snider's favor," the judge added.

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