Juror From Jo Trial Will Speak At Vanguard Family Court Event

Courtesy Photo - protestors in San Francisco following the March 3 conviction of Nan-Hui Jo
Courtesy Photo – protestors in San Francisco following the March 3 conviction of Nan-Hui Jo

Denise Hoffner, who was Juror No.5 in the Jo trial and was dismissed by Judge Rosenberg, will speak at the Vanguard May 9 event on the Family Court Crisis.

Judge Rosenberg dismissed Juror #5, Denise Hoffner, from the jury over the objections of the defense – after she brought it to the judge’s attention that, while she did not believe Ms. Jo acted with malice, the way the law was written, she would have no choice but to convict.

She said, “Look at this woman, she couldn’t have done this maliciously.” But then, “we get this definition that we’re supposed to use malice like it’s not used anywhere, why do they even have the word in the statute? Because it wasn’t about malice when we were instructed to decide the case.”

However, based on the motion for a new trial, attorney Dennis Riordan believes that Ms. Hoffner was correct.

“During deliberations, the Court dismissed Juror number 5 on the ground that she had failed to assure the Court that she would faithfully apply the Court’s instructions,” he notes. “The reluctance on the part of Juror number 5, an attorney, no doubt rested in part or whole on the Court’s instructions concerning the elements of the crime and the defenses to the child abduction charge.”

“Juror number 5’s discomfort with those instructions was well-taken, because the Court’s instructions were at odds with controlling precedent of the United States and California Supreme Courts. The erroneous dismissal of juror number 5 is yet another reason that the present verdict must be set aside and a new trial ordered,” he argues.

The trial of Nan-Hui Jo in fact is a rather classic example of the misuse of the family court system and by extension the criminal court system into a custody dispute.

As author Barry Goldstein stated at the in the 21st Annual Northern California Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Conference in Davis two weeks ago, “Today it is a standard tactic to seek custody as a way for abusers to regain control over their victims.”

He argued, “One reason the DV homicide rate has gone up after years of going down is the result that the success that abusers have had in manipulating the custody courts.”

The primary concern of child custody decisions, Mr. Goldstein would argue, is it “must be to provide complete safety when determining the best interests of the children.”

That is a question that the courts failed to ask in the prosecution of Nan-Hui Jo. Mr. Charlton suffered from PTSD, and he attempted to convince Ms. Jo to have an abortion, while family members attempted to convince her to give the baby up for adoption.

As a means of rectifying the situation, she attempted to marry Mr. Charlton, but he declined to do so. Tensions escalated and Mr. Charlton admitted on the stand that he assaulted her by lifting her by the throat and slamming her into the wall. He also would admit to viewing pornography – violent and explicit pornography, according to the defense, on Ms. Jo’s computer when he was supposed to be caring for her daughter.

Mr. Charlton, it seems, only filed for custody when it was clear Ms. Jo was going to be leaving the country. Mr. Goldstein would likely argue this is a classic case where Mr. Charlton was using the custody of a child, that he admitted he would have been incapable of caring for and should remain with her mother, as a way to manipulate the system and keep the child and Ms. Jo in the country.

Not only did Mr. Charlton on at least two occasions attack Ms. Jo, but he threatened to have a “scary bounty-hunter” chase her down.

Mr. Goldstein in his presentation noted, “The fact is that domestic violence is the most underreported crime that there is. When a man’s domestic violence crime is first brought to the attention of police and prosecutors, we can be fairly sure it’s not the first time he’s committed a domestic violence crime – much less all the other domestic violence tactics that are perfectly legal.”

From Denise Hoffner’s perspective, she said that there was no question that there was a domestic violence incident. However, she said, “I don’t necessarily feel that it was a pattern and practice of domestic violence in this case. But she thought there was. And that’s what mattered to me. She was really trying to protect her baby and I think all of us would have done the same thing.”

In her view, “This was just a woman who was frightened and desperate like she had no options. She probably got bad legal advice and I just don’t see how justice was going to be served. Now she’s going to have a felony. She’s at risk of being deported. And this child is in the United States.”

“It shows how our legal system is about retribution and not restorative justice and not forward looking,” she said.

As Mr. Riordan argues, “Were Ms. Jo’s conviction in this matter to be sustained and she deported as a result, (the child) might never see her mother again.”

To many, the trial of Nan-Hui Jo and the failure to consider the best interests of the young daughter and potentially being separated permanently illustrates a key problem in the family court system, which protects the abusers rather than the victims.

Denise Hoffner will speak at the beginning on May 9th’s program, “Family Court Crisis: Who Will Protect the Children.”

The event features Kathleen Russell as the keynote speakers. Ms. Russell helped to found the Center for Judicial Excellence in 2006, as a non-profit “established to improve the judiciary’s public accountability and strengthen and maintain the integrity of the courts.”

The event also features, as indicated above, a speech from local resident Denise Hoffner, who was removed as a juror in the recent high profile criminal case that involved a custody dispute. There will be a panel discussion with Connie Valentine of the California Protective Parents Association, Distinguished UC Davis Professor Tilahun Yilma, Parent and Advocate Sue Hulsebus and Steve, a 15-year-old child who has been caught in the middle of a custody fight.

Tickets can be purchased in advance for $45 and $50 at the door. For additional information: https://secure.yourpatriot.com/ou/dpd/150/1545/eventsignup.aspx

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts


  1. Davis Progressive

    more and more i think that the legal system has let down everyone here.  i notice the detractors of ms. jo have less and less to say as the law gets clarified here.

  2. Miwok

    Juror #5 has the attitude of

    1) the law is wrong and she cannot execute her duty under it

    2) Believing naively that everyone, especially mothers with kids, are innocent of near-mercenary actions

    3) She is judging a person from a different culture as if Ms Jo is just a concerned mother (there are hundreds of stories like Ms Jo’s)

    4) If #5 truly has the child’s welfare at stake, then #5 cannot fathom taking a child from the mother, regardless of the criminal behavior of the mother.

    There are idealistic people like this, like me even, long ago, before I encountered people like this family who had a child in spite of of differences, cultural differences, drugs, behavior, etc.They play everyone in their lives and the legal system to escape justice, in some strange power grab to have something they don’t want, just to keep it away from the other person. they thrive on conflict, and this is just one more attention-getting stunt. I encourage #5 to take this situation and try to retain the memory, because it will come back to haunt her.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for