An ounce of flesh


The district attorney's office backed down, but not off. In the end, prosecutors insisted on extracting at least an ounce of flesh from Nigerian immigrant Victor Fakoya for daring to defeat their murder case against him. After months of insisting Mr. Fakoya confess to abusing and killing a 2-year-old boy left in his care in exchange for restoring custody of his own two children, prosecutors bargained with his attorneys and accepted a no contest plea for not calling 911 quickly enough.

Mr. Fakoya has been unable to live with his family since December, when a jury acquitted him of murder charges in the death of Daniel Jaiyesim, the son of a friend who was living with the Fakoya family. An earlier trial ended with a hung jury. Five days after Mr. Fakoya's acquittal, the county lawyers handling the Family Court side of the case basically refiled the original allegation and argued his children needed protection because "another child has died as a result of abuse by Victor Fakoya."

Mr. Fakoya, a devout Christian, refused to confess to a crime he did not commit. The district attorney's office pressed the matter even though a Department of Family Services caseworker recommended dismissal.

After the Review-Journal first reported on the case, jurors from his two murder trials came forward to speak out against further prosecution in Family Court.

The continued prosecution of the same facts in another jurisdiction smacked of vindictiveness, testing the Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy -- being charged twice with the same crime. Whatever the legal technicalities, it seemed 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 in District Court by a jury of his peers.

"I have to put my family first," Mr. Fakoya, 40, told the Review-Journal after the settlement was reached Wednesday in Family Court in front of Judge Steve Jones. It still may take a couple of weeks before he is reunited with his wife, Lola, and daughters Elizabeth, 5, and Christina, 3.

For five months, Mr. Fakoya has been forced to live in a hotel room where he works. The family's finances have been drained by the costs of day care. "We have no choice," he said of the decision to enter the no contest plea.

Had the county gone forward in Family Court with a trial on essentially the same set of facts for the third time, not only would the Fakoya family have been ruined, but the taxpayers would have paid thousands to support prosecutorial intransigence.

Though District Attorney David Roger declined to comment, citing privacy concerns, we hope someone's wrists were slapped over this.

 

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