The DA's Power to Disappoint
January 5, 2010
Voice of San Diego
By KELLY THORNTON
Part three of a five-part series.
...A prosecution in 2004 against Thad Jesperson, a popular and respected teacher accused of molesting eight second and third grade girls, conjured memories of the Dale Akiki debacle. Like Akiki, the case against Jefferson was built solely on accusations by children, made after they'd been questioned at length by investigators. There was no other corroborating evidence.
Under then-District Attorney Ed Miller, Akiki was charged in 1991 with 35 felony counts of sexual and physical abuse of children at Faith Chapel in Spring Valley, where he volunteered with his wife in the preschool. A jury took just seven hours to acquit him after a seven-month trial in 1993. He later won a $2 million lawsuit against his accusers.
Also like Akiki, Jesperson spent time behind bars. After three separate trials, Jesperson was finally convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life. He spent four years in prison before being released in January 2008 when an appeals court threw out the convictions and granted a new trial on grounds of juror misconduct and mistakes by his attorney and the trial judge.
Dumanis decided not to take the matter further.
Defense attorneys have said the prosecution is an example of poor judgment by Dumanis , who continued to pursue multiple trials in a case like the bogus one against Akiki which relied on the testimony of children alone. Jesperson's defense was primarily that the students' inconsistent stories were the result of suggestibility, in which interviewers' questions are leading and influence responses...