February 1, 1998 in Nation/World

Juror Helps Man Prove Innocence Pressured To Vote Guilty, Juror Hires Lawyer For Appeal

Associated Press
 

Even after Jim Thomas reluctantly sided with his fellow jurors and voted to convict Wayne Cservak of molesting a 13-year-old boy, he remained convinced Cservak was innocent.

So Thomas, 69, spent his own money to hire an attorney to appeal the case because he knew Cservak could only afford a public defender.

One week into the appeal, the alleged victim admitted he had lied. Cservak was freed.

“I was a juror, and I helped make a wrong,” said Thomas, president and co-owner of All Purpose Adhesive Co. Inc.. “It had to be righted.”

At the trial last May, Thomas believed prosecutors hadn’t proven Cservak’s guilt. He said the teen’s testimony seemed contrived and his story kept changing, while the defendant’s denials appeared believable.

But Thomas could not get his 11 fellow jurors to agree, and after eight hours he gave in. Yet he couldn’t stop thinking they had convicted an innocent man.

Thomas’ first attempt to right the wrong was to speak up for Cservak at the sentencing hearing. Cservak received 10 years in prison. He could have gotten 100 years.

Thomas then hired attorney Robert Adams to handle Cservak’s appeal.

“It’s unheard of,” Adams said. “Not only in Georgia legal history, but in the entire American legal history as far as I can tell.”

On Dec. 29, the case was dismissed after the alleged victim, who is the son of Cservak’s girlfriend, said he concocted the story because he did not want the two to marry.

The next day, Cservak and his family met Thomas for breakfast.

“He was bubbling over with happiness,” Thomas told The Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times in a story published Saturday. “He couldn’t stop grinning.”

Cservak declined to comment.

© Copyright 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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