DA should drop vindictive demand


There is something untoward in the halls of justice when a man who was acquitted by a jury of his peers is told he may not see his own children until he confesses his guilt.

The sad tale of contradictions was outlined in Sunday's Las Vegas Review-Journal by reporter Francis McCabe, explaining the plight of Victor Fakoya.

In December, Mr. Fakoya was acquitted by a jury on the charge of murder in the death of a friend's 2-year-old child while in his custody. But the district attorney's office still demands, as a condition for regaining custody of his own two children, that the 40-year-old Nigerian immigrant admit he abused and killed Daniel Jaiyesim. The first trial on those charges ended in a hung jury.

Mr. Fakoya, a principled and observant Christian, refuses to comply with the prosecutors' demands, even though doing so means he must live separately from his wife and two daughters until still another trial later this month.

"He didn't do it," his attorney, Kristina Wildeveld, told Mr. McCabe. "He doesn't want to admit something that he has worked so hard to prove he didn't do."

A Department of Family Services case worker assigned to the case has recommended dismissal. "In light of the outcome of Mr. Fakoya's criminal trial ... it is respectfully requested and recommended that this matter be dismissed and the case closed," the case worker wrote in a letter to the court.

But the district attorney's office presses on, demanding the confession.

The story points out the Fifth Amendment prohibits double jeopardy -- being charged twice with the same crime -- but then explains the custody case in Family Court is different because that court's goal is to protect children rather than prove guilt.

The distinction is one without a difference. Both courts are in the 8th Judicial District in Clark County. Both cases are built upon the same set of facts.

Yes, the California police officers acquitted in state court of the videotaped beating that touched off the so-called Rodney King riots in 1992 were later tried on civil rights charges in federal court. But those were different jurisdictions.

Whatever the legal technicalities, it seems morally incongruous for prosecutors to demand of Mr. Fakoya that, in order to settle his Family Court case, he confess to something for which he was acquitted.

It smacks of vindictiveness. There is no rational basis for the demand.

The safety of Mr. Fakoya's children can be monitored without demanding a confession that would hang over his life forever, even if he is completely innocent.

"He's willing to do what he needs to do to resolve this thing, short of ever admitting that he harmed a child or killed a child," Ms. Wildeveld said.

 

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