Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Jury Asks For Too Much

By Ralph Cipriano
for bigtrial.net

The jury in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse case today made the mistake of asking for too much.

First, the jury asked to see defendant Bernard Shero's suicide note. No objections were voiced to that request by either the prosecution or the defense.

Shero tried to commit suicide in 2011 by taking sleeping pills when detectives from the district attorney's office came to arrest him. When Shero didn't answer the door, the cops summoned firefighters to break in, and detectives placed the groggy Catholic school teacher under arrest.

The jury also asked to see Detective Andrew Snyder's notes. Snyder was the detective from the district attorney's office who arrested Shero. He was also the detective in 2010 who first interviewed "Billy Doe," the former 10-year-old altar boy who claimed he was raped by both Shero and Father Charles Engelhardt, the other defendant in the case.

Defense lawyer Burton A. Rose, representing Shero, objected, saying that Snyder's notes focus on "one aspect of evidence," presumably the attempted suicide.

Judge Ellen Ceisler then proposed having the court reporter read back Snyder's testimony when he read excerpts from his notes, as well as the cross-examination of the detective when his notes were discussed.

The judge retreated to her chambers, and came back to tell lawyers in the case, "They are having a hard time clarifying it," presumably meaning the jury's request for read-backs on testimony.

The jury subsequently asked for a read back on Detective Snyder's testimony, and also a read back on Billy Doe's direct testimony about the alleged rape by Shero.

Rose asked the judge to deny the request, instead suggesting that the judge tell jurors to "rely on your own recollections."

The judge agreed. "It's getting way too involved," she said of the jury's request. "They're going to have to rely on their collective recollection."

That was the only public segment of court today. The judge sent the jurors home at 3:48 p.m. after a second full day of deliberations. There's a gag order in the case that prevents lawyers on both sides from talking to reporters, so nobody in the know could clarify what was going on, and the judge wasn't holding a press conference.

The only accomplishment of the day as far as the press corps was concerned was when Pat Ciarrochi of CBS 3 went to the clerk's office to get the formal charges against the defendants. The exact offenses against both defendants has been a matter of confusion since the first day of trial, when the court crier had the defendants stand up and enter their pleas of not guilty.

The court crier then read a list of six charges against Engelhardt, and six charges against Shero. But both defense lawyers objected, saying the court crier mistakenly read one extra charge against each defendant.

According to the latest update, Engelhardt is charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor, indecent assault on a person less than 13 years old, and conspiracy.

The conspiracy charge alleges that Engelhardt conspired with former priest Edward V. Avery, who pleaded guilty last year to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a minor, namely Billy Doe. The prosecution has alleged that Engelhardt told Avery about his "sessions" with Billy, prompting Avery to also rape the boy.

Shero is charged with rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor, and indecent assault on a person less than 13 years old.

Deliberations are scheduled to resume at 9:30 a.m. in Courtroom 901 of the Criminal Justice Center.

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