Posted: Wed, Jun. 20, 2012, 4:57 PM
By John P. Martin and Joseph A. Slobodzian
INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS
Updated 4:45 p.m.
After 11 days of deliberations, jurors at the landmark clergy-sex abuse trial of two Philadelphia priests said Wednesday they were deadlocked on all but one count.
Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina immediately pressed them to keep trying.
In a note sent to the judge shortly before noon, the panel of seven men and five women reported they had reached “a hung jury status” for four of the five charges in the case. They did not identify the charge on which they agreed.
The jurors deliberated through the rest of the afternoon until Sarmina sent them home. They were told to resume their deliberations Friday morning.
Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former clergy secretary for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is charged with one count of conspiracy and two of child endangerment for allegedly failing to remove two priests despite signs they might abuse minors. The Rev. James J. Brennan faces one count each of attempted rape and endangerment.
In their note, the jurors said, “We have all jurors firm on their votes except for two on one charge.” One of those jurors could be persuaded after looking at more evidence, the note said, but that would not end the deadlock.
The judge and lawyers debated the next step then called the jurors into the courtroom. They filed slowly to their assigned seats, some with eyes cast downward, one or two with arms folded.
Sarmina gave them a standard instruction, known as a Spencer charge, to keep deliberating. “If indeed you don’t reach a verdict, the case may have to be tried all over again,” the judge said.
She said the cost and resources of retrying what has been a three-month trial should not be a deciding factor for jurors, but said there was no reason to believe any other jury would be better suited to resolve the case.
Sarmina also told jurors she was open to helping them through the impasse, if possible. She said she could reread them the jury charge or offer additional guidance. Despite objections from Brennan’s lawyer, she also offered to reconsider the jury’s request to rehear trial testimony from the man who said Brennan tried to rape him in 1996, from the accuser’s mother, and from another alleged abuse victim. Sarmina had denied that request last week, saying such a read-back could take days.
When the jury returned to its anteroom, Brennan’s lawyer immediately moved for a mistrial, accusing the judge of improperly inserting herself into the deliberations. “That was not a Spencer charge — that was a Sarmina Spencer charge,” the attorney, William J. Brennan, complained. “You in effect made yourself the 13th juror.”
The judge denied the motion.
The developments followed two days of utter silence from the jurors, a group that had previously sent 25 questions and requests to the judge. The panel’s last request before going silent was for clarifications on conspiracy and endangerment, the charges against Lynn.