‘Hung’ jury told to keep trying in clergy sex-abuse case

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Posted: Wed, Jun. 20, 2012, 10:04 AM

By John P. Martin and Joseph A. Slobodzian

Monsignor William Lynn arrives at the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia for a question by the jury on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. Monsignor Lynn is accused of allegedly covering up abuse by Catholic priests and Rev Brennan is accused of allegedly trying to rape a minor. ( ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )

Philadelphia Daily News

Monsignor William Lynn arrives at the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia for a question by the jury on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. Monsignor Lynn is accused of allegedly covering up abuse by Catholic priests and Rev Brennan is accused of allegedly trying to rape a minor. ( ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )

Updated 1:07 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 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 on which charge they agreed.

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 re-read them the jury charge or offer additional guidance. Despite objections from Brennan’s lawyer, she also offered to reconsider the jury’s request to re-hear 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 ante room, 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.


Jury Hung on Most Charges in Pa. Priest Abuse Case

ABC News

20 June 2012

Associated Press

By MARYCLAIRE DALE Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA June 20, 2012 (AP)

A jury in a groundbreaking clergy-abuse trial involving a high-ranking Roman Catholic official resumed deliberations Wednesday after announcing they were hung up on four of the five charges.

Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina instructed the jurors to keep trying and offered to let them rehear portions of testimony from two accusers if it would help them reach consensus. The jury, deliberating Wednesday for a 12th day, had asked for that evidence last week.

The judge’s offer led lawyer William Brennan to move for a mistrial on behalf of his client, the Rev. James Brennan. The lawyer argued that she was pointing them to a portion of the case.

“You’ve in effect made yourself a 13th juror,” argued Brennan, who is not related to his client.

Sarmina countered that they had previously asked for the help, and denied his motion.

Monsignor William Lynn is the first U.S. church official charged with crimes for his handling of clergy-abuse complaints.

Lynn, 61, served as secretary for clergy in the Philadelphia archdiocese from 1992 to 2004.

He is charged with conspiracy and two counts of child endangerment for allegedly helping the Roman Catholic church cover up abuse complaints. He faces up to 21 years in prison if convicted.

James Brennan, 48, is charged with attempted rape and child endangerment for his alleged abuse of a 14-year-old boy during an overnight stay at the priest’s apartment in 1996.

Another priest, the Rev. Edward Avery, pleaded guilty to sexual assault before trial and is in prison. Lynn is charged with endangering Avery’s victim and Brennan’s accuser.

Sarmina acknowledged Wednesday that it could take days to rehear the testimony from those two young men, but she said that might be better than the alternative.

She reminded the jury that the case may have to be retried if they deadlock and told them to make one last attempt to return a verdict. She asked them to deliberate with open minds but also said they should not surrender their individual opinion to reach an agreement.

The jury note sent to the judge Wednesday morning suggested the split was 10-2 on one charge, but it was unclear what the vote was on other counts or which charge they had reached a verdict on.

Seven men and five women are on the jury. They include a federal court clerk, a gospel singer and a graduate student.

Lynn testified for three days, telling jurors he did what he could to remove accused predators from ministry and get them into treatment.

In 1994, Lynn created a list of 35 accused priests, based on complaints kept in secret, locked files at the Philadelphia archdiocese.

He said he gave the list to his superiors in hopes that Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua would address the problem. Three were diagnosed as pedophiles, and a dozen others were deemed by Lynn “guilty” of the complaint, mostly because they had admitted it. Avery topped the “guilty” list.

The list went missing at the archdiocese for more than a decade. Lynn told a grand jury about it in 2002, but said he could not find it.

A signed memo that surfaced only this year — days after Bevilacqua died in January — shows that Bevilacqua had the list shredded. The memo and a surviving copy of the list were turned over to prosecutors in February, and shown to the jury.

Whatever the verdict, advocates for clergy-abuse victims consider the trial groundbreaking because of the evidence brought to light.

“No matter how this trial is ultimately resolved, the facts it revealed stand as a detailed and devastating indictment of the Philadelphia archdiocese. The transcript and exhibits of this trial are the most important record yet produced of an institution’s failure to prevent the sexual abuse of children,” said Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks clergy-abuse cases.

“This is a record of historic importance that will ultimately help the Catholic church and society at large to deal with a terrible and enduring problem.”

5 Responses to ‘Hung’ jury told to keep trying in clergy sex-abuse case

  1. Sylvia says:

    Oh my,  it’s not looking good for a verdict here.  The jury has apparently agreed on one charge but are divided on four others.  By the sound of things, there is little hope of breaking the deadlock.  If this is the case the whole thing will going back to trial,

    I wonder which charge they agree on? And if the decision is guilty or not guilty?

  2. Mike Mc says:

    They are probably hung up on sending Lynn to jal for 21 years. After all, he did not physically abuse children. I know, he was still responsible but they probably see him as a scapegoat doing his duty under and unrelenting Bishop. 
       As for Brennan, I could see benefit of the doubt, but I believe the evidence is over whelming and if its his word against the youth, the youth will win because of Brennan’s previous admitting sexual advances and exploitation etc.

    I believe that’s where the hung jury is right now.

    But a hung jury will be a sad day indeed, when the RC Church is definitely guilty of allowing other kids to be abused when the Church could have put a stop to this YEARS AGO!

  3. Sylvia says:

    Thanks for posting that Mike Mc.  It’s a great sign. 

    I too was impressed with the signs,  and in fact with the whole group who are out supporting Will Lynch.  But that sign certainly catches the eye and gets the message out in no uncertain terms.

  4. Mike Mc says:

     Well I sure called the above WRONG! In the paper today, Fr Brennan is smiling gleefully while  all others around him have frowns. Says a lot!

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