Jury couldn't reach verdict in SJ principal's case

Jury couldn't reach verdict in SJ principal's case
November 3, 2012 11:11:52 AM PDT
Sometime next week the jury's decision will come about a former elementary school principal accused of failing to report suspected child sexual abuse. Closing arguments were made on Friday.

Jurors spent five hours deliberating, took two votes and told the judge they could not reach a verdict. Their split was 8-4, although they didn't indicate which way they were leaning. Most of the jurors told the judge that additional information would not help reach a unanimous verdict, but some of them indicated that might be helpful. The judge ordered the jury back on Monday.

Prosecutors say Lyn Vijayendran's own notes in October 2011 detail a disturbing incident. A child said her teacher blindfolded her, put something in her mouth and then there was a salty liquid.

Deputy District Attorney Alison Filo told us Thursday the former principal broke the law by not reporting her initial suspicions. She said, "Our concern is that the statue is put in place for the protection of children and if you are going to make a decision you need to err on the side of protecting the child."

The conduct of teacher Craig Chandler and the school district's lack of action against him have now triggered a civil lawsuit. A complaint was filed by the parents of one of Chandler's five alleged victims and it says at least five people at O.B. Whaley Elementry and the school district were aware of inappropriate behavior involving female teachers and perhaps children dating back to 2005.

Attorney Robert Allard represents a 10-year-old student and her mother. He said, "Despite these reports no action was taken against him whatsoever and despite all the red flags that happened with locked door, and kids alone and Helen Keller he was allowed unfettered access to these children."

In this case, the defense told the jury Vijayendran is a good person who was conned by an evil man and says the former principal's character is in itself enough to find her not guilty.

Eric Geffon reiterated in closing arguments on Friday what he told us Thursday about Chandler. He said, "He told Lyn a series of lies, that now we believe are lies, but at the time, they made sense, they were consistent with everything the student had told her."

Allard is concerned a not guilty verdict in the case would send the wrong message.

"I think the damage would be vast. It may be a signal that there is a free pass to educators that if something like this comes to their attention," said Allard.

Some of the jurors told the judge they thought the defendant had the best of intentions, but there were significant disagreements about whether she took the appropriate action.


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