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Man faces choice: Admit guilt in boy’s death or lose parental rights

Jurors who acquitted Victor Fakoya of murder charges were outraged this week to learn county prosecutors have continued their case against the Nigerian immigrant in Family Court despite their not-guilty verdict in December.

"It’s very insulting," juror Lisa Cofer said Tuesday. "The arrogance of these people to continue this. … So we were all wrong. The justice system is wrong. And you’re going to keep going beating this horse."

Fakoya could lose his parental rights to his two daughters if he does not do what prosecutors want: Admit he abused and killed 2-year-old Daniel Jaiyesimi, something the 40-year-old said he will not do.

Fakoya spent two years in jail waiting for justice. On Dec. 17, the second jury to hear Fakoya’s case found him not guilty of a murder charge in the death of Daniel. The first trial ended in a hung jury.

After learning of Fakoya’s plight from a Review-Journal story Sunday, Cofer and fellow juror Eric Echevarria agreed to speak publicly about the case.


"You just had me spend two months of my life away from my family, away from my job, and we gave you a verdict," Cofer said, referring to prosecutors. "And now you are going to drag this poor man and his family through the court’s again because you didn’t get what you wanted."

Cofer said she plans on attending a hearing set for today in Family Court in support of Fakoya, who faces a third long hearing to start in that venue on April 28.

"I feel for Daniel. I feel for his family, but they (the prosecutors) never proved to me what happened," Cofer said. "And they never proved that Victor did anything."

Echevarria, 42, said he didn’t understand why Fakoya still has to go through the Family Court case and said he considers it a violation of Fakoya’s civil rights. He said that the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment prohibits double jeopardy, trying people for crimes for which they have been acquitted.

Fakoya was found not guilty in criminal court, but double jeopardy isn’t a factor in Family Court, where legal actions are aimed at protecting children rather than proving guilt.

District Attorney David Roger Tuesday declined comment, citing Nevada law that prohibits prosecutors from discussing cases that involve child welfare issues.

Authorities suspected Daniel, whose family shared the Fakoya home, died in August 2008 because of child abuse. Fakoya was the last adult known to have been with him.


But during two trials, testimony from myriad medical experts failed to narrow down exactly what caused the boy’s death and if such injury were caused by Fakoya.

Daniel was sick for weeks before his death, and there was evidence to support five different scenarios leading to the boy’s death, and only one pointed to abuse, Fakoya’s defense said.

The Family Court case was to be resolved before his criminal trial. Defense attorneys and prosecutors had agreed to resolve the case if Fakoya admitted he was unable to care for his children because of incarceration. Fakoya would have taken parenting and anger management classes and the matter resolved.

But on Dec. 22, 2010, five days after Fakoya’s acquittal, the county lawyers resubmitted the original petition, stating that Fakoya’s children needed protection from him because he "is a person responsible for their welfare and another child has died as a result of abuse by Victor Fakoya."

Prosecutors again offered to let Fakoya dispose of the case by taking counseling, but this time they mandated child abuse counseling, which would require that he admit to abusing Daniel.

Failing to meet the requirements would result in permanent termination of his parental rights.


Meanwhile, Fakoya cannot move back into his own home and is allowed supervised visits with daughters Elizabeth, 5, and Christina, 3. Family Services case workers who have asked the case against Fakoya be dropped have named his wife, Lola Fakoya, to supervise those visits.

Fakoya’s defense attorneys have said the continuation of the Family Court case "smacks of retribution" by prosecutors.

Cofer described herself as "very cynical" and often believes when "there’s smoke, there’s fire," she said. But she kept an open mind during the seven-week-long trial, and "after hearing all the evidence and going over it … there’s just no way" Fakoya was guilty.

Cofer said she has no problem with Fakoya being with his own children, other children and even her children.

Echevarria echoed Cofer’s thoughts and said prosecutors should drop the Family Court case.

The two jurors said that when deliberations began in the case, nine jurors, including them, said Fakoya was not guilty.

The other four didn’t believe Fakoya was guilty, Cofer said, but they did have questions they wanted answered.

The next vote was 11 not guilty and one with some more questions.

Soon all 12 agreed he was innocent.

Echevarria was one of several jurors who bought presents for Fakoya’s daughters and flowers for his wife in time for Christmas. He said the group decided to do so because they believed Fakoya "to be 100 percent not guilty. He didn’t commit the crime."

Cofer added: "I don’t know if they’ll ever know what actually happened to Daniel, but I don’t believe that Victor Fakoya killed him. And I can sleep very well at night believing that."

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.

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