Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mother loses court case over son`s death..

The mother of Michael White, 14, who drowned in a Sauna in May 2008, has lost her court battle to win compensation for her sons death.

Stephannie White sought damages from the sauna, one of the hospitals where her son was taken, and the national and provincial governments, claiming that they had contributed to her sons death.

"I have instructed (my lawyer) Mr. Hwang to completely investigate all possibilities for appeal, Ms. White said."

"I will stay in Korea as long as necessary. While I am in Korea I will work within the system to seek justice and restitution. Once I am no longer in Korea, I will no longer have to respect Koreas sensibilities on the delicacy of this issue."

Details of the courts decision were unavailable at the time of writing.

The case lasted more than a year, with sessions being dissolved and the court taking the unusual step of visiting the sauna to examine the scene of Michael Whites death.

Police had said about 15 people were in the mens area of the sauna at the time. However, none of them had come forward with information, and a sauna employee had seen White floating face down, but had not acted, assuming that he was conscious.

The circumstances surrounding the death of White, an American, attracted attention from the expat community because of the unusual nature of the event, and because of the court case that followed.

The case was unusual because investigations into deaths of expats are usually closed when the body is taken out of the country, meaning that cases involving expat deaths are not often brought to court.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

An update from Stephanie White (Its a month late and its my fault)

July 14, 2009 court date events

Friday, July 17, 2009 at 10:50am
Greetings Mightie Mike fans

I'd like to first thank everyone for being so patient with me as I get over the jetlag and emotional baggage that comes with the court case.

Sitting in court, we held photos/keepsake ash memorial of Mike as the Judges & court waited nearly an hour for the Sauna's lawyer to appear. After he finally did arrive, court was called back into session and we heard the testimony of an ex- sauna employee, the floor manager of the men's floor. He was working the night Mike was murdered. This is the sauna employee we've been waiting on to come to court since Feb 12, 2009.

While the court carefully tip toed around the "how & why" Mike was unconscious to begin with, he was questioned about events after Mike was unconscious. The ex-employee admitted (as finally revealed to me by Mr. Hwang after much pestering for details) that the sauna staff was fully aware that Mike was unconscious in the shallow pool for at least 30 minutes before taking any action on his behalf. The ex-employee would not look at me directly nor let me look into his eyes, leaving quickly after court so there would be no opportunity.

We might remember at this point that the Good Samaritan law wasn't passed by congress until May 23, 2008, barely two weeks after Mike's murder. Even without the protection of a Good Samaritan law, there is no penalty for calling 119/112.

The lawyer for the Provence (representing the EMT & local public safety inspection office) had previously requested that he be able to call the EMT workers to the stand. These are the very same EMT who told Mr. Hwang they planned to lie on the stand. (we might note there are no laws/penalities for perjury in Korea)

After hearing the testimony of the ex-sauna employee, the head Judge closed the case without hearing the silver tongued testimony from the EMT. The verdict will be submitted to the court system on August 25 at 10am. We do not appear in court for the "reading" of the verdict. Sometime that afternoon, Mr. Hwang & the other lawyers will receive an email giving the basics of the verdict. Two weeks later they will all receive a paper copy of the verdict with full details from the three Judges. (Similar to the American Supreme Court verdict process)

The opposition lawyers/Mr. Hwang will have 30 days from August 25th to appeal the verdict. (Which is actually just two weeks, as they would need the detailed paper verdict to complete the appeal paperwork). Mr. Hwang feels confident that the Judges will side in my favor and the likelihood of appeal is small.

According to Mr. Hwang, it seems "my grief has pushed me to go too far" and I've pushed to the limit 'making Korea look bad". An appeal would prolong my time in Korea and give me more opportunity to gather what supporting evidence I can as well as continue to have the police files translated at a cheaper rate than I would get in the US. even if one of the opposition lawyers files an appeal, the Head Judge can deny it. We would have the same Judges again should that happen.

While, avoiding "counting my chicks before they hatch" decisions do need to be made on whether a foundation/charity or advocacy group will emerge from this. I've been contacted by Bill Kapoun's mother and hope to continue contacting more families of victims so that we (fams of the murdered) and the expat community can work toward doable goals and raising awareness. Somethings (like foundation/charity) can not be done without the support/volunteerism of the expat community. Your opinion is welcome and you are encouraged to express yourself.

Thank you again for your help, support, words of kindness and el mucho grande vibes sent out for Mike's sake. For that, I'm forever in your debt.

In humble thanks
Mightie Mike's Mom

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sincerely, John Hughes

I was babysitting for my mom's friend Kathleen's daughter the night I wrote that first fan letter to John Hughes. I can literally remember the yellow grid paper, the blue ball point pen and sitting alone in the dim light in the living room, the baby having gone to bed.

I poured my heart out to John, told him about how much the movie mattered to me, how it made me feel like he got what it was like to be a teenager and to feel misunderstood.

(I felt misunderstood.)

I sent the letter and a month or so later I received a package in the mail with a form letter welcoming me as an "official" member of The Breakfast Club, my reward a strip of stickers with the cast in the now famous pose.

I was irate.

I wrote back to John, explaining in no uncertain terms that, excuse me, I just poured my fucking heart out to you and YOU SENT ME A FORM LETTER.

That was just not going to fly.

He wrote back.

"This is not a form letter. The other one was. Sorry. Lots of requests. You know what I mean. I did sign it."

He wrote back and told me that he was sorry, that he liked my letter and that it meant a great deal to him. He loved knowing that his words and images resonated with me and people my age. He told me he would say hi to everyone on my behalf.

"No, I really will. Judd will be pleased you think he's sexy. I don't."

I asked him if he would be my pen pal.

He said yes.

"I'd be honored to be your pen pal. You must understand at times I won't be able to get back to you as quickly as I might want to. If you'll agree to be patient, I'll be your pen pal."

For two years (1985-1987), John Hughes and I wrote letters back and forth. He told me - in long hand black felt tip pen on yellow legal paper - about life on a film set and about his family. I told him about boys, my relationship with my parents and things that happened to me in school. He laughed at my teenage slang and shared the 129 question Breakfast Club trivia test I wrote (with the help of my sister) with the cast, Ned Tanen (the film's producer) and DeDe Allen (the editor). He cheered me on when I found a way around the school administration's refusal to publish a "controversial" article I wrote for the school paper. And he consoled me when I complained that Mrs. Garstka didn't appreciate my writing.

"As for your English teacher…Do you like the way you write? Please yourself. I'm rather fond of writing. I actually regard it as fun. Do it frequently and see if you can't find the fun in it that I do."

He made me feel like what I said mattered.

"I can't tell you how much I like your comments about my movies. Nor can I tell you how helpful they are to me for future projects. I listen. Not to Hollywood. I listen to you. I make these movies for you. Really. No lie. There's a difference I think you understand."

"It's been a month of boring business stuff. Grown up, adult, big people meetings. Dull but necessary. But a letter from Alison always makes the mail a happening thing."

"I may be writing about young marriage. Or babies. Or Breakfast Club II or a woman's story. I have a million ideas and can't decide what's next. I guess I'll just have to dive into something. Maybe a play."

"You've already received more letters from me than any living relative of mine has received to date. Truly, hope all is well with you and high school isn't as painful as I portray it. Believe in yourself. Think about the future once a day and keep doing what you're doing. Because I'm impressed. My regards to the family. Don't let a day pass without a kind thought about them."

There were a few months in 1987 when I didn't hear from John. I missed his letters and the strength and power and confidence they gave me and so I sent a letter to Ned Tanen who, by that time, was the President of Paramount Pictures (he died earlier this year). In my letter I asked Mr. Tanen if he knew what was up with John, why he hadn't been writing and if he could perhaps give him a poke on my behalf.

He did.

I came home from school soon after to find an enormous box on my front porch filled with t-shirts and tapes and posters and scripts and my very own Ferris Bueller's Day Off watch.

And a note.

"I missed you too. Don't get me in trouble with my boss any more. Sincerely, John Hughes."

Fast forward.

1997. I was working in North Carolina on a diversity education project that partnered with colleges and universities around the country to implement a curriculum that used video production as an experiential education tool. On a whim, I sent John a video about the work we were doing. I was proud of it and, all these years later, I wanted him to be proud too.

Late one night I was in the office, scheduled to do an interview with a job candidate. Ten minutes or so into the call it was clear that he wasn't the right guy, but I planned to suffer through.

Then the phone rang.

1…2…3…4…a scream came from the other room and 1…2…3…my boss Tony was standing in my doorway yelling, "John Hughes is on the phone!!"

I politely got off the phone with the job candidate who was no longer a candidate and

Hit. Line. Two.

"Hi, John."

"Hi, Alison."

We talked for an hour. It was the most wonderful phone call. It was the saddest phone call. It was a phone call I will never forget.

John told me about why he left Hollywood just a few years earlier. He was terrified of the impact it was having on his sons; he was scared it was going to cause them to lose perspective on what was important and what happiness meant. And he told me a sad story about how, a big reason behind his decision to give it all up was that "they" (Hollywood) had "killed" his friend, John Candy, by greedily working him too hard.

He also told me he was glad I had gotten in touch and that he was proud of me for what I was doing with my life. He told me, again, how important my letters had been to him all those years ago, how he often used the argument "I'm doing this for Alison" to justify decisions in meetings.

Tonight, when I heard the news that John had died, I cried. I cried hard. (And I'm crying again.) I cried for a man who loved his friends, who loved his family, who loved to write and for a man who took the time to make a little girl believe that, if she had something to say, someone would listen.

Thank you, John Hughes. I love you for what you did to make me who I am.

Sincerely, Alison Byrne Fields.