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South Korea court overturns death sentence

SEOUL, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- A South Korean appeals court overturned the death sentence for a 33-year-old convicted child rapist and sentenced him to life in prison, authorities said.

Kim Kil-tae, a repeat sex offender, was sentenced to death by a district court in June for the rape and killing of a 13-year-old girl in the southern port city of Busan in late February, Yonhap news agency reported Wednesday.

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Kim had appealed the verdict, claiming he has no memory of the crime.

The Busan District Appellate Court said extensive media coverage and public outrage against the defendant may have affected the earlier ruling that sentenced him to the maximum punishment allowed by law.

"A death sentence should be given only in circumstances in which a criminal cannot coexist with the values of the society or the state, such as when he or she brutally and intentionally kills people randomly," the court said.

Kim committed an "unforgivable crime," the court said, and should be permanently separated from society, but the court said capital punishment should be handed down very sparingly in a civil society.

"There is a huge difference between the death sentence and a life sentence," the court said.

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