Kelly Soo Park, the woman prosecutors once described as a “female James Bond,” walked out of court a free woman June 4, 2013, when a jury refused to convict her of the 2008 murder of Maxim model Juliana Redding.
After more than a week of deliberations, jurors twice returned verdicts in the highly-charged Los Angeles courtroom. Court began Tuesday with the jury announcing that they had reached a unanimous not-guilty verdict on the charge of first-degree murder – but could not come to a decision on the second-degree murder charge. In a controversial move, Judge Kathleen Kennedy allowed counsel 10 minutes each to make additional closing arguments in front of the jury.
Roughly an hour later, the jury sounded the jury room buzzer three times indicating that they had reached a decision. Families and supporters of both the victim and the defendant lined the courtroom, and tensions exploded after the jury returned their second not-guilty verdict.
After the jury left the courtroom, one Redding supporter shouted at Park: “Murderer!” Another man exclaimed “This is a travesty of justice.” As defense attorneys George Buehler and Mark Kasabian entered a courthouse elevator, another Redding supporter taunted: “How would you feel if your daughter was killed?” Redding, who had appeared in several music videos and independent movies, was just 21 years old when she was murdered.
Jurors did not speak to the media afterwards to explain the controversial verdict. LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey did release a statement about the case: “We fought hard and fair in the court of law to obtain justice. Although we disagree with the verdict, we respect our system of justice.” Defense attorney Buehler told the LA Times his client was trying to put the past behind her: “She’s had some hard years dealing with this, the fear of it, the anxiety of it. She just wants to go and rest right now.” Kelly Park has not spoken to the media since the verdict either.
Prosecutors believe Park was working as an enforcer for Lebanese doctor Munir Uwaydah, a shadowy figure whose name had been mentioned throughout the trial as the connection between Redding and Park. Park worked for Uwaydah, who had been involved with Redding and had a failed business venture with Redding’s father. Park had been paid roughly $1 million by a Uwaydah-controlled company (Uwaydah is believed to be residing in Beirut and could not be called to the stand at trial), which the State alleged was payment for the murder. Jurors did not hear that Uwaydah paid for Park’s defense.
In fact jurors did not believe the Uwaydah connection, and that the fact that Park’s DNA was found on Redding’s body and in her apartment was not considered sufficient evidence by the jury to overcome a reasonable doubt. Defense attorneys had argued convincingly that the DNA might have been transferred while Redding lived in Uwaydah’s home. Lack of any motive on Park’s part might also have weighed significantly in the jury’s decision.
Investigation by Park’s defense had implicated an alternative suspect in the murder, which they were not allowed to put forward in their theory of the murder at trial. Defense attorneys fingered John Gilmore, a former surfer boyfriend of Redding’s as the culprit. Gilmore allegedly choked a subsequent girlfriend, telling her “that he was going to make her feel what Juliana felt.”
Santa Monica Police Detective Karen Thompson told attorneys that Gilmore had been seen on surveillance cameras at Albertsons and several people saw him at a party the night Redding was murdered. Judge Kennedy ultimately ruled against the defense’s motion to introduce testimony about Gilmore.
With the case complete, Kelly Park has her freedom and the Redding family is left with the loss of a daughter that will seemingly never be rectified in a court of law. Former prosecutor Alan Jackson originally had the Park case, and still believes in her guilt: “When Kelly Soo Park walked out of that courtroom, justice was not served.”