Las Vegas Sun

January 17, 2018

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Jury deadlocked in case of Nigerian immigrant accused of killing toddler

Judge declares mistrial; new trial date set for Nov. 8

Victor Fakoya trial

This photo of 2-year-old Daniel Jaiyesimi was presented Tuesday during the trial of Victor Fakoya. Fakoya is standing trial on a murder charge in the boy's death. Launch slideshow »
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Victor O. Fakoya

For 502 days, Victor Fakoya has been behind bars at the Clark County Detention Center, accused of killing a toddler boy living in his home.

For the past 30 days, he has been on trial in District Court Judge Valorie Vega’s courtroom.

But after two days of deliberations, a jury of seven women and five men was unable to return a verdict as to the Nigerian immigrant’s guilt or innocence and a mistrial was declared.

Fakoya, 42, was returned to jail to await a new trial after the jury “hopelessly deadlocked.”

He stands accused in the death of 2-year-old Daniel Jaiyesimi, who died Aug. 11, 2008, at University Medical Center after three days in intensive care. Doctors testified the boy was brought to the hospital “in extreme medical distress.”

Daniel and his parents, Musediq and Toyin Jaiyesimi, were living with Fakoya and his wife, Lola, along with the Fakoyas’ two small children, in the Fakoyas’ two-bedroom Las Vegas home at the time of Daniel’s death.

The Fakoyas were helping the Jaiyesimis get on their feet as they adjusted to life in the United States. The Jaiyesimis had moved from Nigeria to Las Vegas in December 2007 after the Fakoyas agreed to be their host family.

Fakoya testified that he loved Daniel as if the boy was his own. He said he would never hurt a child and he never hurt Daniel.

Prosecutors claim Fakoya, who was caring for Daniel in the hours before he was taken to the hospital, is the only person who could have caused the boy’s injuries.

They said that possibly shaking, blunt force trauma or a combination of the two killed him.

Fakoya’s attorneys cited a number of other possible reasons for the boy’s death. They offered theories of a possible infection, an accident or possibly an undiagnosed health condition.

Whatever caused the boy’s death, his lawyers contended that it wasn’t Fakoya’s fault.

Throughout the trial, both sides hammered on the timeline of events the day Daniel died. Daniel was alone with Fakoya in the morning and in the afternoon hours, but in the middle of the day, Musediq Jaiyesimi came home for lunch.

Prosecutors said the boy’s injuries, which included a skull fracture, bleeding in his brain and bruises, were inflicted by Fakoya after Musediq Jaiyesimi left the home to return to work.

If jurors had found Fakoya guilty, they could have convicted him of either first-degree murder, second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. If convicted of first-degree murder, he could have been sentenced to life in prison.

His fate will now be determined at a new trial, set for Nov. 8. In the meantime, his attorneys will argue for his bail to be reduced from $500,000 to $100,000.

“A half million dollars bail is unreasonable based on what happened today,” his court-appointed attorney, Norman Reed, said after the judge excused the jury.

As for what happens next, Reed said, there’s a chance the case could be negotiated. But he also said there’s a good chance the next trial could yield an acquittal.

“We’re hopeful we can get a jury to find him not guilty,” he said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Vicki Monroe said prosecutors will review their case to determine if they will make any changes before again presenting it to a jury.

“It’s disappointing,” she said of the not getting a guilty verdict. “I have no doubt (about Fakoya’s guilt). The child was abused, and when it came down to daddy or the defendant … I have no doubt he did it.”

“But we’ll regroup and go back at it again,” she said.

She said she hadn’t talked to the Jaiyesimis but anticipated that they, too, would be unhappy.

Interviewed after being released from their service, jurors said eight of them had voted guilty, and four were on the other side.

They had sent a note to Judge Vega on Tuesday afternoon saying that several jurors wanted to go home and sleep on it. On Wednesday afternoon, they advised the judge that they were deadlocked.

Hale Benton, 66, who is self-employed as a sales and marketing consultant, said he went into deliberations with an open mind but could not be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt Fakoya was guilty.

He said the timeline of events the day the Daniel went to the hospital was the sticking point.

“I wanted to be dang sure that Victor Fakoya was the person who did whatever it was that happened. And we still don’t know exactly what happened,” he said. “And I couldn’t be sure. The other three of us were in the same boat; we just couldn’t be sure.”

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life,” he said, adding that he had been the one who had to make end-of-life decisions about several family members.

“I had to actually make the decision to pull the plug, and this was more difficult than that,” he said.

Mike Oliver, 34, who works as a security officer, was one of the eight who thought Fakoya was guilty.

“Everything progressed way too quickly and there was so much damage that, in my opinion, the injury had to have taken place … within an hour or two from when Daniel started showing symptoms,” he said.

He said he was undecided when he walked into the deliberation room.

“There were a lot of holes in the case,” he said, adding that prosecutors did a good job at filling them in, as did sharing notes with his fellow jurors.

He said all 12 jurors agreed that the boy died from child abuse.

“It’s been extremely stressful. The last two nights I’ve done nothing but cry,” he said. “We just couldn’t agree on when it happened and who did it. We know what happened — a lot of damage, a lot of injury — but we don’t know how. And a lot of the jurors didn’t know who. And that’s where the impasse was.”

David Levine, 31, an engineer for the Las Vegas Valley Water District, was one of the alternate jurors, so he did not participate in the deliberations. But contacted after the jury announced it was hung, he said he was glad to see Fakoya was not convicted.

“I was 100 percent on the not guilty side,” he said, “but a mistrial is better than putting him away. I had more than a reasonable doubt that he didn’t do it.”

He cited inconsistencies with some of the medical testimony as well as what he called a lack of specific evidence that Fakoya was responsible for the boy’s injuries.

“It’s hard to believe that a sickness would have caused it … but it was also hard to believe that Victor would have taken the kid and smashed him with that amount of force,” he said, adding that the character witnesses called by the defense had an impact on him.

About a dozen people took the stand on Fakoya’s behalf, including his former boss, an executive from the New York-New York casino. “There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s a good guy,” Levine said. He said Fakoya had no motive to hurt the boy.

“They could place him there as the last person to be with Daniel, but I don’t see how you could put someone away when there’s no actual proof he hurt him,” he said.

Fakoya’s wife, Lola, was present for different portions of the trial, and offered her own testimony. She spoke with jurors Wednesday and thanked several of them afterward. She declined to be interviewed.

Fakoya will next appear for a bail hearing in front of Judge Vega on March 25.

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