Posted: 06/27/2012 11:21:27 AM PDT
Updated: 06/27/2012 12:16:29 PM PDT
By Tracey Kaplan
Judge David A. Cena, two hours into Wednesday’s deliberations, summarily and abruptly ordered the public out of the Will Lynch assault trial courtoom. Only the jury remained, along with the mystery of what legal housekeeping the judge needed to do with such immediacy.
In many such situations, a judge will want to query jurors about whether anyone on the panel violated his orders and researched the controversial case thru media reports or in other ways. It’s also possible that Cena is contemplating replacing a sitting juror with an alternate.
However, 15 minutes later when the public was allowed back in, the judge gave a stern warning to onlookers about them having absolutely no contact with any juror — regardless of how innocent that contact might seem.
“Don’t even say, “So what do you think about the 49ers moving to Santa Clara?”’ said Cena, giving an example that illustrated how no topic with a juror is allowed. “If you do, I will not hesitate to eject anyone no matter how innocent the contact.” The judge did not explain exactly what caused him to clear the courtroom or why he made that particular warning to the returning gallery.
Prior to the clear-out, the prosecution had presented its fifth witness — Mary Margaret Eden. The retired health care coordinator for the Jesuits was based at Sacred Heart retirement center in Los Gatos, where Father Jerold Lindner lived when Lynch allegedly physically attacked him in May 2010.
Today, for the second time since the incident, Eden changed her story. Initially, in three police interviews, she said she did not witness the attacker strike Lindner, who was 65 at the time. Then, last year, during the preliminary hearing, she said she saw a man — identified as Lynch — punch Lindner.
Cena had already instructed the Santa Clara County jury to ignore Lindner’s 40-minute testimony from last week, including his insistence that he did not — as Lynch declares — sexually molest his suspected attacker (and his 4-year-old brother), 35 years ago when Lynch was 7 years old.
Cena also ruled that three witnesses expected to testify about Lindner’s alleged molestations would not be allowed. Those rulings force most of the trial’s attention toward Lynch’s alleged attack of Lindner and away from tinderbox testimony about molestation accusations from three decades ago.
Today, regarding the alleged beating, for the first time Eden said Lynch tried to regain entrance to the guest parlor at Sacred Heart center where a bleeding Lindner sat crumpled on his knees, but that she blocked Lynch’s way.
Pat Harris, Lynch’s lead attorney, focused his questions on Eden’s inconsistencies and on the fact that she did not identify Lynch in the first lineup she was shown. Harris also asked her a series of questions about her loyalty to the Jesuits.
“You’ve tried to protect the reputation of what goes on at Sacred Heart haven’t you?” asked Harris. To which Eden answered, “yes, that is part of the mission there.”
The Jesuits have doled out millions of dollars to settle cases brought by Lindner’s victims — including the Lynch brothers — but the priest was never prosecuted because Lynch and others reported the abuse after the brief window of opportunity set by the statute of limitations ended.