In July 2002, 37-year-old Jesse Allen Cheshire of Durant, Oklahoma, was charged with sexually molesting his two daughters, ages 7 and 9.
The investigation was triggered after the girls’ mother took them to a physician for a routine physical examination. After a lab report indicated the 7-year-old tested positive for trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted disease, the physician’s office notified authorities.
Both girls were questioned by a sex abuse investigator and at first they named someone else as having sexually molested them. After further questioning, the girls said their father had molested them when they were naked in bed with him. However, after additional questioning, the girls both recanted and said Cheshire had not abused them.
When Cheshire tested positive for trichomoniasis, the girls were then examined by a physician who said he believed there was physical evidence of sexual abuse.
In April 2003, while awaiting trial and free on bond, Cheshire’s bond was revoked and he was taken into custody after his lawyers reported that Cheshire had threatened to harm the judge and prosecutor in his case and to blow up the Bryan County Courthouse. His lawyers then withdrew and a new attorney was appointed to represent Cheshire. In March 2004, Cheshire was charged with making a bomb threat.
In September 2004, Cheshire went on trial in Bryan County Criminal District Court on two charges of child sex abuse and one count of assaulting a police officer (which allegedly occurred during Cheshire’s initial arrest). His daughters were not called to testify. Instead, the prosecution called two sex abuse counselors who testified that the girls had told them that Cheshire had sexually molested them.
A physician testified for the prosecution that there was physical evidence that the girls had been sexually assaulted.
Defense attorney James Rowan was critical of the medical exam that resulted in the positive finding for the sexually transmitted disease because the slides made at the time of the examination were not preserved. He argued that the technician had made a mistake, that the test result was a false positive.
Rowan also offered a report by a child abuse expert who had examined the girls and said there was no physical evidence of sex abuse, but the judge refused to admit the report into evidence.
On September 29, 2004, after a two-day trial, Cheshire was convicted of two counts of sexual abuse of a child. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison. The jury acquitted him of assaulting the police officer.
In January 2005, Cheshire pled no contest to making a bomb threat and was sentenced to three years in prison to be served concurrently with the 16-year sentence in the sex abuse case.
On appeal, Cheshire argued that his trial had been unfair because the prosecution expert’s report saying there was physical evidence of abuse was admitted in evidence but the defense report saying there was no physical evidence of abuse was excluded.
Cheshire also argued that allowing the counselors to testify to the girls’ statements was prejudicial error because the testimony was hearsay and the defense was denied the right to cross-examine the girls.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction in October 2006. The court held that admission of the victims’ statements through prosecution witnesses violated Cheshire’s constitutional right to cross-examine his accusers.
The court said, “Considered in the light of the other evidence presented at trial, including the victims’ initial naming of someone other than (Cheshire) as the perpetrator and a subsequent recantation of the allegation against (Cheshire), there is a reasonable probability the victims’ hearsay statements might have contributed to the conviction.”
On July 17, 2008, the prosecution dismissed the charges and Cheshire was released.
– Maurice Possley