tv 2020 ABC October 7, 2017 10:00pm-11:00pm PDT
♪ tonight on "20/20," a mysterious death in the first family of pop. the jacksons. a family that's had too much of fame and tragedy. michael's former sister-in-law dee dee. >> she was like a sister to all the brothers. she was family. >> jackson five brother tito jackson here to tell us his ex-wife was afraid of swimming, so, how did she end up at the bottom of her new boyfriend's swimming pool? >> what is she doing in water? because dee dee and i, neither one of us swarm. >> it was just a nightmare. kid's worst memory. her three sons, the three ts, told their mother was gone. >> i remember uncle michael he wanted to protect us from going into some type of terrible
depression. >> the powerful jackson family wages a campaign, calling for a murder charge against that boyfriend, the last one to see her alive that night. >> he killed my mom. >> convicted by a jury, spending 20 years in prison. but he says he should be free. so does his daughter, who is fighting back tonight, looking for any shred of evidence that might get him out. his first interview from jail. >> did you kill dee dee? >> no, absolutely no way. >> and listen to the world famous expert witness the jury never heard. >> there was no evidence to indicate that she had been murdered. >> a jackson family mystery you haven't heard, still playing out tonight. >> good evening. thank you for joining us this saturday night, i'm elizabeth vargas. >> and i'm david muir. just this week a petition was filed that could change a man's life. a plea to a new wrongful
conviction review unit in the district attorney's office. another effort to free a man that's spent more than two decades behind bars for a murder hi says he did not commit. >> this is a death in the world famous jackson family, and the resulting murder trial, as you'll see, raises so many questions. so, we brent straight to the sources. the jackson family, the attorneys and coroner. and the convicted murder himself, whom you're about to hear from a telephone interview with our jim avila. >> it was very, very hot. unusually hot in l.a. the moon was out. >> reporter: an august night in an exclusive los angeles neighborhood. sea breezes through the palms of a glamorous home, as the owner, dashing l.a. businessman don bohana, and his divorcee girlfriend dee dee, relax by his backyard pool. >> we'd go out sit by the pool, have a couple of drinks. delores would sometimes have a
cigarette. it's very romantic. we ended up going into the jacuzzi, and she swam over to the light. then i noticed she wasn't really moving. i jumped in, put my arms around her and then flipped her out of the pool. at that time, then i started doing cpr on her. you know, i -- i couldn't believe it. i just went numb. >> reporter: so, what happened in this pool on that night? was it a simple drowning? was there too much wine? was the pool just too deep? there were no witnesses, just the two lovers. one drowned, the other now in a california prison, where he can only tell his story over the phone. he says he's in prison today because the woman who drowned here was l.a. royalty. divorced from one of the jackson 5. >> here, the jackson 5. ♪ >> reporter: the jackson 5, now legendary, catapulting to stardom in 1969 -- ♪ oh baby give me one more chance ♪ >> reporter: -- after we first
saw them on "the ed sullivan show." >> you're going to bust every record in the country. wonderful to have you on our show. >> the jacksons were kind of like the beatles in a sense. people would literally faint right in front of them. ♪ dancing, dancing >> reporter: and we all know the hits. "dancing machine" and "i'll be there," courtesy of the five brothers. jermaine, little michael, of course, jackie, marlon and then there was tito, the second oldest, memorable mainly because he danced with a musical instrument. >> he was the one that played the guitar. and he will never be forgotten because of that. >> reporter: the guitar dancer found a new partner at fairfax high school in los angeles where he met fellow student delores "dee dee" martes. >> she had ran up to me and said, "happy birthday," and gave me a kiss on the cheek. >> reporter: so what was attractive to you about dee dee? >> well, i was a shy young man, and for her to be so outgoing, i just found that fascinating.
>> reporter: the shy young man is now an international superstar. yet with dee dee, they're just typical high school kids. >> she didn't even care about him being a member of the jacksons, she just cared about him. >> reporter: in 1972, the two married right out of high school and dee dee became part of the whirlwind of fame surrounding the jacksons. >> she was like one of the sisters. she had a little apple green vega. she used to let michael drive it up and down the driveway. those were the good old days. >> reporter: sister-in-law dee dee stayed in the background, far more focused on raising three sons, taj, taryll and t.j., who bear a striking resemblance to their older, more recognizable jackson relatives. >> they would go on tour. so, a lot of the times, it was us three and mom at home. >> she's very tough, but at the same time, loving. >> she was really passionate about being a mother. >> reporter: for dee dee, school
and little league baseball. the local encino ball field is named in her honor. are far more important than the red carpet and fame and fortune. >> i think my mom knew that it was not going to be a quote/unquote normal life. so she made it as normal as possible. >> reporter: still, just like their famous dad and uncles, the three boys start playing music at a young age. >> we would take our father's, you know, outfits and even if they were oversized. we put them on and we were the jacksons. >> reporter: the boys form the group 3t, and eventually, in the '90s -- ♪ i would do anything girl ♪ anything for you >> reporter: -- they'll be playing stadiums and making records. but while their children's careers are on the rise, tito and dee dee's marriage is on the rocks. it wasn't a bad divorce, where you guys didn't like each other or anything. >> no, it wasn't. it was just differences. >> reporter: it's l.a. in the mid '90s. the now 39-year-old dee dee is hitting the dating market and meets what looks like a potential prize catch.
l.a. businessman don bohana. he's 20 years old, 59, handsome, wealthy and successful. making his fortune running hospitals and insurance companies. >> he was articulate, he was professional, he was always well-dressed. i mean, i don't know anybody that didn't like don bohana. >> reporter: the urbane, debonair bohana lives the high life, owning a fleet of luxury cars and his own plane and boat, hobnobbing with politicians and celebrities. bohana is also known as someone who gives back to the community. >> one, two, three. >> reporter: making a big splash for opening a denny's in watts, the first sitdown restaurant in the pooshr, black neighborhood since the riots of 1965. >> i believe in putting people to work within their community and that's the change, that's making a statement. >> reporter: a divorcee himself, bohana meets the bubbly dee dee jackson in the spring of 1994. daughter donna, who is about to be married at the time, is impressed when she volunteers to help.
>> she became very animated about it and supportive, and i thought, "wow, my dad's new girlfriend is really cool." >> reporter: but among dee dee's young sons, a totally different vibe. >> very cold. didn't speak. and i didn't really care for him. >> reporter: bohana and dee dee have been dating just 12 weeks when, in august 1994, she drops by his home in the exclusive ladera heights neighborhood. it's 11:00 in the evening, after a late dinner, the two start the weekend ritual. drinking. wine for bohana. rum and coke for dee dee. around midnight, dee dee gets on the phone with donna. >> they seemed to be in pleasant spirits and they seemed to be having a great time. >> reporter: there was no hint of discord or anger or anything like that going on. >> no. there had never been, at any time. >> reporter: soon after that, the two lovers get into the hot tub, and the drinks keep flowing poolside.
then, at 3:30 in the morning, 911 gets this emergency call. >> 911. what's the problem, sir? >> someone fell into my pool. she's drowning. 64 -- >> who's drowning? >> come on 64 -- >> hang on, hang on. >> reporter: the lives of two families upended by tragedy. >> it was just a nightmare. it's like a kid's worst memory. >> reporter: dee dee jackson helpless in 15 feet of water. >> what was she doing in the water? dee dee and i, neither one of us swam. >> reporter: so why was she in the water at all? stay with us.
woman: so, greg, it's a lot to take in. woman 2: and i know that's hard to hear, but the doctors caught it early. hi, blake! my dad has cancer. woman: and i know how hard that is to hear. but you're in the right place. man: and dr. pascal and her team, they know what to do. they know what to do. the doctors know what to do. so here's the plan. first off, we're going to give you all... (voice fading away)
>> reporter: it's 3:30 a.m. on that hot august night in los angeles. at dee dee jackson's home in the san fernando valley, a ringing phone wakens the sleeping household. >> i got a phone call and i was told that my mom had been in an accident and that i need to go to the hospital right away. >> reporter: paramedics had rushed an unresponsive dee dee to the hospital after an apparent swimming accident at the home of her new boyfriend, don bohana. but before the boys can reach the hospital, doctors pronounce their mother dead. >> when he said, "she's dead," i don't remember anything else he said. >> reporter: the next phone call is to their dad. >> it was just horrifying and just -- the coldest day of our lives.
>> here, by the bushes, is where dee dee jackson was found. >> reporter: to unravel what happened in that pool is the job of detective bob snapper of the l.a. county sheriff's department. >> this pool is approximately 15 feet deep. >> reporter: evidence of heavy drinking is all around. >> i found a 1.75 liter bottle of rum that was empty. and also two quarts of wine. they were both empty. >> reporter: in fact, snapper can smell liquor on bohana's breath. he had actually blurted out the wrong address when he called 911. >> drowning. 64 [ bleep ] holt. come on, 64 [ bleep ] holt. >> reporter: and is still drunk hours after paramedics first arrived. >> i did do a test on mr. bohana to see how severely drunk he was. he pretty much failed the test. >> reporter: despite bohana's impaired condition, snapper asks him for a detailed account of just how dee dee has drowned at this very pool.
>> she came over and swam over to him and then go down and touch the pool light. and then do an olympic-style turn to go back to where the spa was. he then got out of the pool, and then, all of a sudden, he noticed that she was down in the deep end of the pool and it seemed that she was in trouble. he jumped into the pool and then he said that she fought him off. he got out of the pool and used the pool pole and extended that out to dee dee in the water, and she would not grab onto it. he goes in and lifts dee dee up from under her arms. and gets her out of the pool in the deep end. >> reporter: but it is too late. snapper says bohana relates the traumatic incident in a precise, matter of fact manner. was his demeanor suspicious to you in any way? >> no, not really. no. >> reporter: but nothing stood out to you that said, "wait, this is no accident?" >> true.
>> reporter: word of an accidental death in a family considered hollywood royalty makes big news in l.a. >> janet jackson and four of her famous brothers attended the funeral. >> reporter: like any jackson tragedy, dee dee's burial is akin to a state funeral. former parents-in-law joe and katherine are seen, and there's ex-husband tito. the biggest family superstar avoids the crowds. instead, michael supporting his grieving nephews in private. >> i remember our uncle michael flew in town and swept us away. he wanted to protect us from going into some type of terrible depression. >> reporter: but festering beneath the pain lurks suspicion and doubt about don bohana's story. family and friends say it doesn't add up for one critical reason. dee dee is terrified of the water and cannot swim. >> my first question was, drown?
what is she doing in water? dee dee and i, neither one of us swam. >> and to hear stories that she was doing these olympic turns doesn't make sense. doesn't add up. >> reporter: suspicious. so, all await the coroner's report, hoping for answers. the autopsy is conducted by an l.a. county coroner, dr. david posey, a central figure in this drama. but posey's autopsy report adds more questions than answers. with disturbing details. dee dee's blood alcohol level is shockingly high. three times the legal limit for driving. but even more alarming, posey notes there are numerous bruises and scrapes on dee dee's face and body that he describes as the result of "blunt force trauma." also lacerations on her lips, tongue and earlobe. posey raises the specter of foul play, using the words "assisted drowning" and labeling the marks on her body "non-accidental." >> just the evidence alone of
all my mom's injuries is enough for me to know he -- he killed my mom. >> reporter: but despite those seemingly suspicious markings on dee dee's body, the coroner posey rules the manner of death "undetermined." and it stays that way for two years with little action from the district attorney. coming up, the powerful jacksons go to war with their hired gun attorney, this man, leading the charge to put don bohana behind bars. accusing bohana of having a history of violence with women. >> there are literally incident upon incident upon incident of the police being called to his house, where he has had fights with various people, his girlfriends. was there pressure? there was a one man show, and it was called me, and i did the pressure. >> reporter: will the jackson family pressure work? when "20/20" returns.
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'90s, glam home to celebrity crimes and misdemeanors, like the menendez brothers murder trial, heidi fleiss and her hollywood hookers, and of course, the trial of the century, o.j. simpson. >> if it doesn't fit, you must acquit. >> there became a whole host of lawyers and even experts who became mini-celebrities. >> reporter: also in los angeles, another high-profile death investigation involving the superstar jackson family is seemingly stalled. >> delores jackson, ex-wife of jackson 5 member tito jackson, died under suspicious circumstances. >> reporter: more than a year after his girlfriend dee dee jackson drowned in his backyard pool, california businessman don bohana is free to drive his fancy cars and fly his private plane. all under a cloud of suspicion though, relentlessly seeded by dee dee's famous family. remember, the jackson family is convinced there's no way she
could have accidently drowned in bohana's pool, because she was terrified of water. >> the fact that there was a swimming accident was red flags for the family. >> reporter: and what about those cuts and bruises the coroner found? >> the l.a. county coroner's report finds 58 separate injuries that are more consistent with a struggle than with a drowning. >> it points to a murder to me, in the first degree. >> i know it was an accident. i was there. i know what happened that night. >> reporter: later, bohana will go on the tv show "inside edition" to defend himself. if dee dee couldn't swim, he asks, why did she keep several swimsuits at his house? >> people say, well, she couldn't swim. well, she was very comfortable swimming in this particular pool. >> reporter: and there may be some evidence to back up bohana's claim. according to the police report, taj jackson said his mother told him, "she was trying to learn to swim and mr. bohana was teaching her." in response to those seemingly incriminating marks on dee dee's
body, bohana insists that he made desperate, drunken attempts to rescue her with a pool pole. >> the facts are that someone was not beaten up. i think we know the answer to why she would have some bruises on her body, by using the skimmer. so, those questions don't even bother me. >> reporter: suspicion reigns thick, but authorities take no action against bohana. >> the mode of death was undetermined. we are unclear as to how she came to meet her death. >> most district attorneys won't file a case with an undetermined cause of death. >> reporter: enter this man, the jackson's mouthpiece and sometimes gatekeeper, attorney brian oxman. the outspoken oxman spreads the message that bohana is guilty of killing dee dee. >> she struggled against a hand trying to pull it away as it covered her mouth. >> reporter: here he is on kabc in los angeles, accusing the d.a. of dragging his feet. >> he is sweeping this particular investigation under the rug. it was a one-man show, and it was called me.
it was brian oxman who did it. >> reporter: and oxman takes his one-man show even further, filing a wrongful death civil suit against don bohana on behalf of dee dee's kids. oxman goes on tv with the possible motive outlined in the suit, claiming bohana was bankrupt and deeply in debt, and turned to dee dee for help. >> reporter: when he met a jackson, he felt that his possibilities of recovering from his financial problems had arrived. >> reporter: oxman public by hults out his theory that dee dee was furious that her boyfriend asked her to bail him out, and a fight soon followed. >> i am sure that dee dee laid into him and told him precisely what she thought. that infuriated him. he killed her out of anger and out of passion. >> she was a jackson, and that's what he knew. >> reporter: so, the jacksons had money. >> that's what he knew. >> reporter: and beyond money problems, oxman seeds more suspicions in the media about skeletons in bohana's closet. he tells "hard copy" that police responded at least a dozen times
to 911 calls from past girlfriends. >> there are literally incident upon incident upon incident of the police being called to his house, where he has had fights with various and sundry people, his girlfriends. >> reporter: while oxman is on his media blitz, there's a newly-assigned aggressive young prosecutor on the criminal case, lori jones. she recognizes the key to charging bohana is getting that coroner, dr. david posey, to change his "undetermined" opinion on the manner of death. >> he told us they just didn't have enough. they needed to know more. >> reporter: so jones says she reinvigorates the investigation, sending police back to the pool. that's her in the deep end. her investigators, as well as water experts, are skeptical of the claims that the injuries were caused by his rescue attempt. >> when we got all of those additional reports, we took it back to the l.a. county coroner, and he changed his opinion.
>> reporter: that's right. in a stunning development two years after his initial ruling, dr. posey makes a life changing reversal. changing his opinion on dee dee jackson's death from "undetermined" to "homicide." that one word change is all the d.a.'s office needs. in march of 1997, nearly three years after dee dee's death, don bohana is charged with second degree murder. in oxman's view, his campaign on behalf of the jacksons has paid off. >> finally, lori jones of the district attorney's office, took a look at the file, reviewed it and said, this is murder. >> reporter: coming up, don bohana goes on trial for the murder of dee dee jackson. but he has a surprise in his corner. where there's celebrity crime there's a celebrity coroner, and bohana's expert is so famous, he has his own tv show. >> there was no evidence at all to indicate that she had been murdered. >> reporter: a stunning opinion from dr. michael baden that might get bohana off the hook. but will bohana's high-profile lawyer ever let the jury hear from him?
♪ >> reporter: 3t, the next generation of jacksons, are performing in the netherlands. ♪ i would do anything for you ♪ i would do anything for you >> reporter: during their european tour, they learn l.a. businessman don bohana is being charged with the mudder of their mother, dee dee jackson. >> we were on tour when we found out that we were actually going to have some kind of court case. >> reporter: but remember, don bohana, who pleads not guilty, has a strong reputation in l.a. as a wealthy, well-connected businessman. now comes o.j. simpson
attorney johnnie cochran, a friend who bohana hopes to hire. but cochran has a conflict, so he connects bohana with another famous courtroom figure, dr. michael baden. yes, that's him. dr. michael baden. fox news consultant. and former new york city chief medical examiner with decades of experience. >> well, when you live long enough, you get more experience. >> reporter: the hits keep coming. the central member of bohana's team, harland braun. he's a high-powered defense attorney to the stars. >> these are movie makers. >> reporter: working on the sensational "twilight zone" case, where actor vic morrow and two children are killed onset. and later representing actor robert blake when he's accused of murder. >> to line up harland braun and michael baden is a mini-dream team. these are the people you want. >> reporter: dr. baden goes to work, reviewing the original autopsy report, inspecting photos of those suspicious bruises, walking the pool with
bohana, and reaching an explosive conclusion. >> it was clear to me that this was a typical accidental drowning, in which two people were drinking a lot, and one of them drowned. i think there's no evidence of homicide. >> reporter: no evidence of homicide? but what about those suspicious markings on dee dee's body and face? >> these are trivial injuries, often caused by rescue attempts, entirely consistent with the attempts to get her out of the pool. >> reporter: and there are many other bruises, he concludes, that are consistent with something else. >> definitely the brown shows them to be old. she had a very diseased liver from drinking. she's going to bump into things and get a bruise when others might not have. >> reporter: their conclusion is that these bruises happened in a struggle before she got in the water. >> no, that's pure speculation. these same trivial injuries being called a homicide is what i think is misleading the family.
>> reporter: four years after dee dee's death, the jacksons finally have don bohana in court. there's matriarch katherine and members of the jackson 5. >> we knew finally it would come to justice. >> reporter: in the courtroom, jackson family members and friends all testify about dee dee's fear of water. now, you'd think a key part of the prosecution's case would be that incriminating claim involving bohana and women by jackson's attorney, brian oxman. >> there are literally incident upon incident upon incident of the police being called to his house, where he has had fights with various and sundry people, his girlfriends. >> reporter: oxman says it was in police reports, but the never heard at trial. the lead investigator telling us, records show calls to police were merno y eldrcoine iskingin ampnd parts like that. >> reporter: you never found another girlfriend who said, "he beat me all the time"? >> no.
>> reporter: and deputy d.a. jones says there's no proof to that possible motive put out by oxman that bohana beat up and drowned dee dee in a rage, after she refused to bail him out of financial problems. >> i don't believe we have any evidence of that. >> reporter: but the prosecution does try to introduce another incident from bohana's postthat has enraged the jacksons. the family believes he is responsible for killing two other women in 1975, in the water, claiming he was drink at the wheel of his boat when it capsized. >> three women died in his presence? something's freaky and weird about that. >> reporter: but the coast guard report shows that not only isn't bohana under the influence, he isn't at the helm. that incident is also not allowed into the trial. the jury does hear the testimony of an aquatics consultant who says it's more likely to be injured during a rescue attempt, not the victim. so why, prosecutors ask, did dee
dee have bruises, and bohana did not? the prosecution calls dr. david posey. remember, he's that coroner, who after two years changed his opinion from undetermined to homicide. posey tells jurors dee dee's body spoke loud and clear. that those bruises are signs that bohana severely beat dee dee before she drowned in the pool. for the prosecution, who was the key witness? >> dr. posey. >> reporter: clearly he was. >> without a doubt. >> reporter: but don't forget, the defense has its own star forensic pathologist on standby, dr. michael baden. >> i expected to go out there. i was told i was going to go out and testify. >> reporter: but as the trial progresses, bohana and his family, including ex-wife sheila, whom he's still close to, are mystified. where is dr. baden? >> why isn't he calling dr. baden? everybody else put on their people. >> reporter: you think dr. baden would have made a difference? >> oh, indeed. the world's greatest pathologist? my gosh. >> reporter: but harlan braun never calls dr. baden.
in fact, braun doesn't call a single expert witness. and in a curious gamble, he decides to put the defendant don bohana himself on the stand. >> every defense attorney knows how risky it is to call a defendant to the witness stand. >> reporter: sure enough, the prosecutor takes apart bohana for his drunken actions that morning, like blurting out the wrong address to 911 and saying dee dee could do olympic-style turns in the water. >> if i'm going to take that chance and call him, i got to make sure he's ready. >> reporter: after a quick three-week trial, the jury announces its verdict. >> we, the jury, in the above and entitled action find the defendant donald james bohana guilty of second-degree murder. >> reporter: the courtroom explodes in applause -- >> i was happy. >> reporter: -- as the jacksons get their man. the story of dee dee jackson's death should end then and there. but it doesn't. coming up -- now it's the bohana family who won't give up, raising questions
about the man hired to defend him, harlan braun. could an unpaid bill have affected his defense? you weren't angry at him, and he wasn't angry at you? and what about that coroner whose opinion put don behind bars? >> he just dabbled in autopsies. >> dabbled? >> yeah, he dabbled. >> hi, dr. posey? >> reporter: what will dr. posey say to our "20/20" cameras? >> you do remember the case of dee dee jackson. >> name's vaguely familiar. >> reporter: when "20/20" returns.
woman: so, greg, it's a lot to take in. woman 2: and i know that's hard to hear, but the doctors caught it early. hi, blake! my dad has cancer. woman: and i know how hard that is to hear. but you're in the right place. man: and dr. pascal and her team, they know what to do. they know what to do. the doctors know what to do. so here's the plan. first off, we're going to give you all... (voice fading away) my father could not, did not and would not ever, ever do what
he's accused of. >> reporter: november 1998, don bohana is on the way to prison, his daughter donna begging for mercy. the judge presiding over the case rejecting her plea. >> defendant is sentenced to the state prison for the term mandated by law of 15 years to life. >> reporter: with that, bohana marched directly to jail for processing and hasn't tasted freedom since. today, locked away in a central california prison, where we interviewed him over the phone. so, don, let me ask you directly, did you kill dee dee? >> no, absolutely -- absolutely no way. i wouldn't kill anyone. >> reporter: one of the things that's tricky is, we have all these people who said she couldn't swim? >> i'll go to my grave sg auaysn delores could swim. >> reporter: bohana's reserved his deepest anger over his defense. >> right after i was found
guilty, i told him i never want to see his face again, because he just screwed me all the way. >> reporter: bohana still enraged that braun left his most important witness off the stand. dr. michael bauden. >> i was surprised. i thought i was going to testify. i didn't. this is an innocent man who has been in jail for a long period of time. >> reporter: in 2002, bohana appeals his conviction on the grounds that his star attorney had bungled the case. >> it was a terrible ips department, and i wish we could have won the case, but it doesn't haunt me. >> reporter: we take bohana's charges directly to harland braun, who counters that it's his own client who's to blame for the courtroom loss. >> he was not a good witness. to be honest about the case, the worst witness was mr. bohana. >> reporter: but of course, it was braun's decision to put bohana on the stand in the first place. >> harlan never told me anything. i didn't have one bit of professional preparation. >> reporter: but braun denies that. as to why dr. badden was never
called, braun says the veteran expert would have been a weak witness. >> i wasn't that impressed with the way he was going to testify. >> reporter: so, you don't think he would have helped? >> no, i don't think he would have helped. >> when you have michael baden ready to testify that the prosecution's theory doesn't hold up and you don't call him? really hard to explain. >> reporter: bohana suspects something more sinister affected the decision not to call dr. baden -- money. at the time, don is behind in his payment schedule to braun, and according to this sworn affidavit filed by bohana's brother, larry, an agitated, angry and profane braun called him the night before trial, clearly stating, it is not wise to have an attorney starting trial angry about nonpayment of his fee. >> he was implying that he was not going to do the best job
because he was unhappy. >> reporter: did you make that statement? >> no, i didn't make that statement. >> reporter: you weren't angry at him and he wasn't angry at you? >> i didn't like the fact that he stiffed me. but i wasn't going to pull any punches on a murder case. >> reporter: in fact, braun says his trial strategy was to rely on his own cross-examination skills to destroy the prosecution's case by damaging their experts with his sharp questioning. >> it's always better to get what you want out of a prosecution witness than your own witness. >> reporter: and in the end, the appeals judge rejects bohana's claim, ruling that braun's trial strategy was reasonable, leaving bohana to serve out the rest of his sentence. another 14 years pass. ♪ i would do anything for you >> reporter: the jackson kids see their once promising musical career wane. though they did have their own reality show last year. never forgetting the mother who
died so tragically, here driving to visit her grave on their show. >> to this day, i'm learning how to deal with it, but the pain is still there. >> reporter: meanwhile, donna bohana has turned her grief into action. by day, she works as a glam realtor to the stars in malibu, california. but her nightly obsession, combing through every document in the case. here, she's in her bathrobe, launching a legal treasure hunt to find some shred of evidence that might help get her father out of prison. >> these boxes have been in my family for 18 years. >> reporter: and donna hits what she thinks is pay dirt, digging up a bombshell about the d.a.'s tent pole witness, dr. david posey. at the very time prosecutors are relying on dr. posey to indict don bohana, another prosecutor, steven kay, from that same d.a.'s office, is going public with his claim that pro see is a fraud, saying "he just doesn't have the experience to know what he's talking about." today, kay, a highly regarded
veteran prosecutor, stands by that claim, pointing out that posey had only worked as a part timer at the l.a. coroner's office. >> he just dabbled in autopsies. >> reporter: dabbled? >> dabbled. yeah, he dabbled. i don't see any insurmountable problems in this case. >> reporter: you may remember the sensational trial that kay prosecuted in 1996. he was shocked by posey's testimony, this time for the defense in the case of an l.a. raiders cheerleader who was strangled to death in back of a car. using his then-wife as a stand-in, dr. posey simulated his claim that the cheerleader's death was actually an accident, something the jury soundly rejected. kay says he would have been happy to have told fellow l.a. prosecutor lori jones about what he calls posey's lack of qualifications, if he was asked. >> i would have told her what i told you today, that his testimony should not be believed. >> reporter: nobody in your office raises the flag and says, "wait a minute, we're using that guy ourselves in another courtroom"? >> i don't recall ever
hearing -- until today, you telling me about dr. posey -- i don't recall ever hearing anything negative about him. >> reporter: does it concern you today? >> sure. sure, it would concern me. but it's not causing me to lose confidence in the outcome. >> reporter: but that brings us to a question brought up at trial. why did dr. posey change his opinion from undetermined to homicide? on the stand, posey testifies that based on his visits to bohana's pool, and his own experience as a lifeguard, he always suspected it was homicide. and he testifies the d.a.'s office told him they had an expert who con fired his opinion. but on the stand, dr. posey admits he never spoke to that expert, nor read his report before he changed his conclusion. so, we wanted to speak with dr. posey ourselves. >> hi, dr. posey. >> reporter: we made repeated requests to him for an interview, all without a response. so "20/20" paid him a visit. >> we would like to know why you changed your opinion on the
case. >> i would have to go back and look at the case. >> you do remember the case of dee dee jackson? >> the name is vaguely familiar. way in the back of my mind. >> been in prison for 20 years. >> i don't recall the testimony. >> if he doesn't remember testifying, why am i sitting here? cost me 20 years of my life i'll never get back. >> reporter: when we come back, what chance does don bohana have today to ever be free? and the surprise change that dee dee jackson's kids have made on the decision to keep him in prison for life.
grandfather don for the first time since infancy. >> we're going to go see my grandpa. and i'm going to give him a big hug. >> reporter: making the three and a half-hour trip, where don is still serving time for the murder of dee dee jackson. the visit from emme, a rare bright spot for bohana after 19 years in prison. >> he said that he's really excited that he got to see me. he said he wanted to see me again soon. >> reporter: but bohana's family, still in anguish knowing their now octogenarian father may die behind bars. even some of those who helped convict him are shocked that don is still locked away. >> i about fell out of my chair. i said, "you're kidding me." >> i am surprised that he is still in prison, and i think it is enough. >> reporter: bohana has been denied parole four times already, with dee dee's three sons dutifully opposing his release. >> he hasn't said, legitimately, "i'm sorry." >> it doesn't seem there's any remorse or accountability.
>> i am responsible, and it just pains me very much. had i not been drinking, there's not a doubt that i would have been able to save her. >> reporter: why not just say, "i murdered dee dee," and pretty likely, you'll get out. >> i'll die in prison. hell will freeze over before i admit i did something i didn't do. >> reporter: and 3t telling "20/20," they no longer object to bohana being paroled at his next hearing. >> i basically made a statement, if you feel it's time for him to get out, then let him out. >> reporter: dee dee jackson's kids are focused on remembering mom. >> thank you all for coming out and supporting. >> reporter: 21 years after her death, launching the dee dee jackson foundation. >> we do a lot of music therapy classes at inner cities. it's important to us that people know our mother was about being a great person who gave her life to her kids and to the community. her guidance is everything to me.
>> and those though this case happened in the mid '90s. both families are still in pain. >> thanks so much for watching tonight. i'm elizabeth vargas. >> and i'm david muir. from all of us here at "20/20" and abc news, thank you for watching. enjoy the rest of your weekend. good night. a beautiful show in san francisco today but be warned if