Why the Philadelphia Archdiocese Priest Child Sex Abuse Jury is Taking So Long


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In Philadelphia’s Archdiocese priest sex abuse trial, the jury is working on its twelfth day of deliberations. It’s not unusual for a jury to take several days if not weeks to reach a verdict, especially in a case involving multiple defendants, multiple charges, and over two months of testimony. However, when a jury enters its second week of deliberations, the jurors are usually hung up on one issue.

Much of the evidence detailing the sex abuse has been relatively clear. The issue is the remaining conspiracy charge against Monsignor Lynn, who was charged with two counts of conspiracy and two counts of child endangerment.

After the prosecution rested its case, the judge dismissed the conspiracy charge relating to co-defendant, Rev. Brennan. So the only charges remaining as to Lynn are the two child endangerment charges and the conspiracy charge relating to co-defendant, Avery.

The Jury is Taking its Time in Deliberating

With the whole world watching, the jurors want to take their time. They no doubt have seen the camera crews and reporters both inside and outside the courthouse. Also, it’s difficult for any juror to recall the details of witness testimony, especially considering that there were ten weeks of testimony and evidence.

The Jury is Stuck on Lynn’s Intent

In order to convict on a conspiracy charge, the prosecution had to prove that Lynn 1. had intent to promote or facilitate the commission of a crime and 2. Lynn had an agreement with another person (any person) that one of them would commit a crime.  It is not necessary that Lynn knew he, himself, was committing a crime.

In this case, there was no direct evidence that Lynn had any agreement with any person about Avery committing an actual crime. Therein lies the problem. Jurors, as people, naturally think of a conspiracy as two people who talk about committing a crime. Even though the judge instructed the jury that the agreement could be unspoken, they’re still stuck.

Plus, it’s hard for any person, Catholic or not, to believe that a priest would knowingly place children in direct contact with a known pedophile. They are wrestling with whether Lynn is just the fall guy for the higher ups in the church and was merely following orders. That’s the crux of the defense – that the Cardinal was orchestrating all of this, making the decisions with regards to the priests and that Lynn was just following what the Cardinal told him to do.  Basically, the defense is using a common tactic to explain why the abuse was allowed to continue, what I call the “diffusion of responsibility” approach. Read my article about why institutional abuse occurs.

The defense did a good job of pushing blame on the recently deceased Cardinal Bevilacqua. By doing so, the defense gave the jury a way out on this conspiracy charge, despite the fact that Avery already pled guilty to the conspiracy charge.

While Lynn probably will be found guilty of both child endangerment charges, he may be acquitted on the conspiracy charge or the jury may be deadlocked on that count. Nevertheless, Lynn’s actions clearly constitute negligence and the archdiocese will most likely face civil liability for Lynn’s actions and inactions. A criminal conviction isn’t required to succeed in a civil case.

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