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Ayodeji Oladapo

Other New Jersey Child Sex Abuse Exonerations
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On April 27, 2001, a 10-year-girl, identified as C.I., told classmates and a school counselor that her mother’s boyfriend, 27-year-old Ayodeji Oladapo, had sexually molested her during the past year.

Police were notified and later that day, Oladapo was asked to come to the Union County, New Jersey, Child Advocacy Center for questioning. He denied the allegations. When he asked what he could do to disprove the allegations, police suggested a polygraph examination.

Oladapo, who was not under arrest, signed a form presented by a prosecutor in which he agreed that the polygraph test results would be admissible in court. Oladapo took the test and the polygraph examiner said he failed. Oladapo was then arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child.

In May 2001, C.I. recanted to Oladapo’s mother, whom she considered her grandmother. Not long after, the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) concluded that the child's family was not being supportive of her and removed C.I. from her home. She was placed first in a shelter and then with foster parents. While in the shelter, C.I. accused another man of molesting her, but then recanted that allegation as well.

In December 2002, after C.I. was placed with a relative, she reaffirmed her allegations against Oladapo.

In December 2004, Oladapo went to trial in Union County Superior Court. The prosecutor, during opening statement, said an expert on Child Sexual Assault Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS) would testify that a lack of family support for a victim could prompt a recantation. The prosecutor also noted that Oladapo had failed the polygraph test.

Oladapo’s mother testified that after C.I. made the allegations, C.I.’s mother was reluctant to have the child examined at the Child Advocacy Center. They instead took the girl to a doctor whose offices were above the grandmother’s store, but this doctor refused to examine or speak to C.I.

A DYFS worker testified that she supervised a visit between C.I. and the grandmother in July 2001. During the visit, she testified, the grandmother placed holy oil on C.I.’s forehead “to take the evil out of her, take the spiritual demons away.” When the grandmother told C.I. that she was ugly, the worker stopped the visit because it was inappropriate to call the child ugly and “to tell her that she had spiritual demons inside of her.”

One of C.I.’s friends testified that on April 27, 2001, C.I. told a group of children on the playground “that her father was abusing her, doing sex to her.”

A school social worker testified that on April 27, 2001, C.I. told her that Oladapo was “harassing her” and that he “does it.” The social worker testified that C.I. said the last time was during spring break, which was between April 13 and April 20, 2001.

C.I. testified that Oladapo began living with her family in 1998. In 2001, when she was nine years old, he sometimes babysat for C.I. and her younger sister while their mother was working at night. C.I. described several incidents in which Oladapo climbed on top of her and rocked back and forth with his “private” in her “private.” She testified that on her tenth birthday, Oladapo raped her.

C.I. admitted that a month after the incident, she recanted her allegations, but said it was because her grandmother “kept telling me that it didn’t happen” and that C.I. should tell authorities that nothing happened. She also testified that in May 2001, her grandmother took her to a doctor, who did not examine her. She said that her grandmother told her that the doctor said to put soap into her vagina so that it “would close.” The girl said that her grandmother and the doctor were speaking Yoruba, a language spoken in Nigeria—the native country of her and her mother, as well as Oladapo and his mother.

There was no medical evidence to corroborate the child's allegations.

A physician testified that the grandmother brought C.I. to him, but he declined to examine her after the grandmother told his receptionist that the purpose of the examination was to determine whether C.I. had been raped. He testified that he recommended that C.I. be taken to the Child Advocacy Center. He also testified that he was from Ghana, did not speak Yoruba, and communicated with C.I.’s grandmother only in English. He said he did not prescribe anything to be placed in C.I.'s vagina.

C.I.'s mother, J.I., confirmed that in 2000 and 2001 there were times when defendant babysat for C.I. when she went to work. She testified that on April 27, 2001, she was called to C.I.’s school and later went to the Child Advocacy Center with the grandmother. During the drive, the grandmother was yelling at J.I. that her “bastard child” was going to get Oladapo in trouble, and that J.I. should tell authorities that she knew nothing. J.I. told the jury that she believed C.I. recanted because her grandmother told her to.

J.I. admitted telling the police in May 2001 that she thought C.I. was making up the allegations because she was angry with the defendant for not letting her watch television. J.I. testified that she felt intimidated by the grandmother because the grandmother practiced voodoo, and she had seen a voodoo shrine in the grandmother's house with her picture near it. The trial judge barred the defense from questioning J.I. about a conversation she had with C.I.’s teacher about an allegation that C.I. had tried to kiss another student and was “acting out sexually” at school.

Dr. Cohen Esquilin testified that child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome (CSAAS) was not a diagnosis, but that it helped explain why children who are abused often delay reporting the abuse. She also told the jury that if a family was not supportive, recantations occurred. During cross-examination, she admitted that CSAAS did not address the behavior of children who falsely claimed abuse, but was based only on children known to have been abused.

The State then played for the jury videotapes of police interviews of C.I. conducted on April 27, 2001, during which she accused Oladapo, and on May 4, 2001, during which she recanted.

The defense sought to present evidence about C.I.’s accusation that she had been raped while at the children’s center in the fall of 2001—a claim she had also recanted. The trial judge reviewed the DYFS records and police reports concerning that allegation and refused to allow the defense to present that evidence. The judge concluded that even though no one was ever prosecuted, the rape had been substantiated, but did not articulate any reasons for this conclusion.

Union County Police Detective John Kaminskas testified without objection from the defense that he administered the polygraph test to Oladapo shortly after midnight on April 28, 2001. He testified that there were “indications of deception” when Oladapo gave negative answers to questions concerning sexual activity with C.I.

During cross-examination, Kaminskas admitted that polygraph results were not considered “100 percent reliable,” but asserted that they were considered in the “95 to 97 percent accuracy rate.” He went on to claim that the results of tests he had done were 100 percent accurate because he had never seen any proof that anyone he determined was deceptive actually told the truth.

Oladapo’s sister, who lived with C.I.’s grandmother, testified that in the spring of 2001, C.I. came to the grandmother’s house every weekend and stayed in the sister's room. The sister, who was then a high school senior, said that C.I. never complained that Oladapo sexually molested her. The sister testified that when Oladapo was arrested, C.I. told her that she had lied. The sister also said there were no voodoo shrines in the grandmother's house.

During closing argument, the prosecutor argued that C.I.’s family forced her to recant. The prosecutor also told the jury that the polygraph results were “100 percent accurate” and “the machine said [Oladapo] lied.”

The prosecutor asked the jury to consider how much better the child was doing in school after she was removed from the home, prompting a defense objection because there had been no testimony relating her school performance to the allegations. The objection was overruled.

On December 10, 2004, the jury convicted Oladapo of two counts of sexual assault of a child under 13 and one count of child endangerment. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

In November 2007, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court reversed the convictions and ordered a new trial. The court held that it was “fundamentally unfair to permit an uncounseled defendant to stake his fate on what may be the equivalent of a coin toss…The devastating effect of a polygraph in tilting the balance of an otherwise close case cannot be underestimated. The impact in this case was magnified because the prosecution presented the test as a highly reliable ‘lie detector’ and encouraged the jury to rely on it in reaching its verdict.”

The appeals court also ordered the trial court to hold a hearing and to make findings regarding C.I.’s allegation of rape (and subsequent recantation) while at the shelter. “The second recantation may be a critical issue for the defense,” the court said.

The prosecution appealed, and in March 2009, the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the reversal and remanded the case for a new trial. Noting that the case “rested on the testimony of the accuser, with no medical or physical evidence to corroborate her words,” the court said that the “sweeping waiver” to allow the polygraph results “without the assistance of a lawyer, compromises the integrity of the criminal trial process.”

On July 8, 2009, the prosecution dismissed the charges and Oladapo was released.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/16/2018
State:New Jersey
County:Union
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:Child Abuse
Reported Crime Date:2001
Convicted:2004
Exonerated:2009
Sentence:18 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:27
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No