You’re in the middle of a mystery. You missed the clues and didn’t gather evidence to solve the mystery. That was Jacob’s story. We started after his arrest to gather evidence or rather review the lack of it. The truth in the story was that the kid and his sibling had spent some weekends at the house with Jacob and his wife, once with some friends of Jacob’s and sometimes alone with Jacob during those visits. A couple of the visits were murky about dates or even time of year and whether the kid had even been there alone. Just how many visits were there to the house? No one kept track. How many times was the sibling there too? Probably most, but no one kept track. Was it Jacob who wanted the kids there? Jacob liked the kids, thought it was nice for them to have a weekend away from home and give their single mother a free weekend. He liked most of the people of the family he had married into. Since there was no evidence, all you can do is try to understand people, behavior, and circumstances. You look at yourself too because you’re in play. You did not tell your wife about the kid’s last visit, in the game of jealousy between husband and wife. The prosecution made a deal of that, but most people know that spouses do not tell each other everything. His father-in-law’s confused phone call to Jacob a few days before the arrest suggested Jacob’s mother-in-law had withheld a story from her husband for months. His daughter claimed Jacob had been abusive when in fact the police she called asked both of them if they wanted to press charges. So why was her mother just telling her husband the story months later? I hypothesize that it was because she knew when her daughter told the story, she was trying to turn a fight into something more, but now the woman was building a case. Jacob’s case was built on accusations and innuendo. I’m just giving this example of a husband and wife who seemingly didn’t share everything to show that you can make all kinds of things look suspicious if you spin it.
People ask why this kid would lie. Upon hearing the story, people would invariably ask that question, although Jacob’s friends accepted his innocence. They did not ask, “Did you do this?” But people asking why is understandable because we often try to understand lies, albeit usually not lies that have the enormity of consequences of these. But to ask the accused to explain the lies against him could seem like an assumption of guilt, guilty until proven innocent. You really are asking the wrong person. But we all ask ourselves that very question when we are forced to somehow explain how someone we trusted betrays us in an ugly way. This was not just some stranger that we did not care about. To come face to face with the realization that you misplaced trust affects not only your view of that person, but the view of yourself.
Guilty until proven innocent. Read blogs and Facebook groups of people trying to free friends or loved ones, and you will see that sentiment expressed in other cases. Is this a flaw in our system now that there are people who no longer believe in that presumption of innocence? It certainly is the case for sex accusations. We have difficulty accepting that another human being, especially a child, could put forth such ugly accusations. But they do, and the charged emotions of the accusations make people want to believe them. A lawyer said such accusations often happen in family court and are discounted. Then there were the stories of daycare facilities several decades ago with incredible accusations from very young children, cases of hysteria and national media attention. Or consider the case of the San Antonio Four. These cases are nothing like my son’s, but they are stories of lies. It can happen to someone you know. It doesn’t just happen to strangers. They are people like Jacob with families like mine.
In a case where you have no evidence and only accusations, the prosecution will try to damage the character of the accused. They have to write a character capable of such acts. Let’s face it. Most of us could be portrayed as capable of lots of things, whether we are or not. In Jacob’s case, the prosecution brought his wife to the stand to talk about their marriage; and ugly it was. But what really do the problems in a marriage have to do with these accusations? What evidence does she offer to the kid’s accusations? None. Yes, the marriage was unhappy and separation was imminent to the accusations. What does that say? Circumstances surrounding the family and the accusations. In the waiting room of that magistrate’s office for the preliminary hearing, his wife surrounded by most of her family members announced for Jacob, and I and my husband that they were a family that sticks together. My mother-in-law called that one. She said of Jacob’s future wife, “Her family will always be more important than ours.” And her family would always be more important than her husband. All I can say is that if my husband was accused of sexual abuse, no matter what our relationship, I would have asked that one all-encompassing question if I did not have faith in him. But she’s not me, and I’m not her; so I am left with hypotheses of why she stayed in the house with him after hearing these accusations or why she never asked just that one question.
What I must reconcile that I never really understood before about the justice system because I had trust that truth and justice went hand in hand was that there is legal guilt and actual guilt and legal innocence and actual innocence. Unfortunately, those terms for guilt and innocence are not always synonymous. How do you prove your innocence without evidence? You have to present a performance to convince the jury. And obviously, Jacob did not present well in court against a boy, though he denied every accusation.
I think I have said this before. I am not talking about any other case of sexual abuse. Most accusations of sexual abuse are probably true. When I talk about the innocently convicted, I am writing about a variety of crimes when the convicted have eventually been able to prove their innocence. They had physical evidence or admissions of lies or recantations. This is Jacob’s case I write about. There is no evidence on either side of this case. And now there is only one person who can proclaim his actual innocence.