An alternate juror in the Engelhardt-Shero case recalled the moment she got a courtesy call from the court clerk, telling her the jury had reached a verdict.
It seemed pretty fast to her. The call came in at 7 p.m. on Jan. 30, 2013, after three days of deliberation, only five days after she had been dismissed as an alternate.
They came back guilty on all the charges except one, the court clerk told the alternate juror, a young woman in her 30s.
"I was like, 'Are you serious?' I couldn't believe it," she said in an interview. "I thought for sure they were going to vote not guilty because there was absolutely no proof that these men had done that." To the alternate juror, who wishes to remain anonymous, the guilty verdict was "incredible," even "insane."
"I was completely shocked by it," she said. "It was very hard for me. It was, however, an appropriate finish to her first experience of being a juror, which she described as "two weeks of insanity."
Was justice done in the case of Father Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero?
"No," she said. "I think it was a tragic miscarriage of justice."
The alternate juror interviewed Thursday night was the first of 12 regular jurors and six alternates to speak out publicly on the case in the seven weeks since the Jan. 30 verdict.
Let's hope it's the start of a trend.
It would help everyone's understanding if more jurors came forward to explain a verdict that not only shocked this alternate, but also just about every reporter who covered the case, as well as the former sex abuse victims and the many lawyers who visited the courtroom during the trial.
Whether you chose to believe Billy Doe or not, the verdict made no sense, because it was not supported by the evidence presented at trial.
The district attorney was surprised by the verdict; the lead prosecutor expected to lose.
For this alternate juror who chose to speak out, the verdict made no sense, she said, because "the prosecution was riddled full of reasonable doubt."
"The stories were so inconsistent," she said about the various versions of the sex abuse allegations made by the 24-year-old victim in the case known as "Billy Doe."
"What I couldn't get over was there was no consistencies about the story."
The details of the allegations kept changing every time Billy Doe told his story, the alternate juror noted. He told four different versions.
First, Billy Doe told his story to Louise Hagner, a social worker for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Then Billy was interviewed by Detective Andrew Snyder of the district attorney's office. Next, Billy Doe testified before the grand jury. Finally, Billy Doe testified to the jury in the Engelhardt-Shero case.
"Nothing was consistent," the alternate juror said. "Not what happened, not where it happened."
"There was so much 'I can't recall' from the witness, and we were supposed to say of course he can't recall?" she said. "I had a hard time buying wholesale what this witness had done."
Several times during the trial, defense lawyer Michael J. McGovern pointed out to the jury the presence of Billy Doe's civil attorney in the courtroom. McGovern usually described Billy Doe's civil attorney as the most interested spectator in the courtroom.
Then, on the witness stand during cross-examination, Billy Doe dropped a bombshell. He told an incredulous McGovern, a former prosecutor himself, that it was the district attorney's office that hooked him up with the civil attorney, so that Billy Doe could sue the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for damages.
That had an effect on the alternate juror.
"There was nothing that made me believe that this was not financially motivated as well," she said.
While some people choose to believe that Billy Doe made it all up, the alternate juror said she could not conceive anyone would be evil enough to do such a thing.
In her mind, Billy Doe was a victim, she said, but she just didn't know of what.
"Something terrible happened to this young man," the alternate juror said. "Something damaged him to the point that he became a completely different person. But I can't believe these two men assaulted him. To me it didn't seem truthful that these guys did it. To me it was shocking to hear because they seemed like good people."
The alternate juror brings her own perspective to the case. She's an elementary school teacher, a mandated reporter of child sex abuse. So for her, that's where the problems started.
Both Father Charles Engelhardt and former Catholic school teacher Bernard Shero had no history of sexually abusing children.
"Pedophilia is not just something that you just tried out," the alternate juror said. Child abusers usually have a history of abusing multiple victims. So where, she wanted to know, were the other victims.
Billy Doe's story was that back when he was a 10-year-old fifth grader, he was raped at St. Jerome's Church by two different priests, Father Engelhardt and Father Edward Avery. And that a year later, when he was an 11-year-old sixth grader, he was raped again by Shero, his sixth grade teacher.
It's an incredible story about a child being passed around from predator to predator while nobody notices anything.
It's a story that left even people in the district attorney's office divided. Some felt Billy Doe was telling the truth. Others, in the immortal words of Mike McGovern, became convinced that Billy Doe was a "lying sack of shit."
The alternate juror didn't know what to believe. But she does know what to look for when it comes to child abuse.
"We're taught the signs of child abuse, sex abuse," the alternate juror said. In the case of three rapes of a child, she said, you would think that either his parents -- a police officer and a nurse -- or his older brother -- an eighth grader at the same school -- or Billy's doctor, or one of the teachers at St. Jerome's would have seen something.
"I would hope that you would notice something," she said. "To have these terribly violent attacks and to not have someone notice anything at all seemed amazing to me."
In Father Engelhardt's case, the rape of Billy supposedly took place after Mass in a tiny church sacristy with four doors. A sacristy that, according to trial testimony, was a place traversed by priests, altar boys, sextons, nuns, the church pastor and parishioners, all passing through on their way to the church, the sanctuary, a storage room, and the only bathroom in the place.
The prosecution claimed that Billy Doe was raped by two different priests inside the church after Mass, and nobody saw anything, and nobody heard anything.
"To believe that no one would be around for that period of time," the alternate juror said about the alleged rape in the sacristy by Father Engelhardt. According to one of Billy's versions of the story, the rape went on for five hours.
"That to me was outrageous, that no one would notice, no one would hear anything,"the alternate juror said.
The prosecution alleged that Father Avery raped Billy Doe after Mass in a closet outside the sacristy.
Once again, the alternate juror found that story incredible.
"How is this happening, an attack on a fifth grader in a closet and nobody's noticing?" she asked.
In the case of Bernard Shero, according to Billy, that rape took place in broad daylight. Billy gave three different locations for the rape: in the classroom, or inside Shero's car that was parked in either a parking lot at an apartment building in Northeast Philadelphia, or a section of Pennypack Park known as a lover's lane.
And once again, nobody saw anything, and nobody heard anything.
"He was assaulted in a classroom? That to me was completely unbelievable," the alternate juror said.
As far as she was concerned, regarding the whole prosecution case, "It seemed like it was propped up on unbelievable facts."
The alternate juror was underwhelmed by the defense lawyers. She came to loathe the prosecutor. She was impressed by the judge. She felt sympathy for both defendants in the case, as well as for the alleged victim.
"He's a terribly troubled young man," she said of Billy Doe. But at the same time, he did not come across like a 24-year-old man.
"He didn’t strike me as mature as a 24 year old should be," she said. She recalled when Billy Doe was asked what he was doing now. He replied he was working for his uncle as a landscaper down in Florida.
To the alternate juror, that was not something a 24-year-old would be doing; to her, it sounded more like a 16-year-old.
"Every answer seemed so convenient and so processed to me," she said. "It just didn’t feel genuine. It didn't feel like a young man trying to get right. It felt like a young kid trying to get out of trouble."
"I have kids lying to me every day," she said. "I felt like I was watching somebody trying to get out of trouble."
"He also wasn’t extremely emotional on the stand," she said. "It wasn’t like a moving story. It wasn't the heartbreaking story of a man who spiraled out of control because of this one event," she said.
"That didn’t come across."
Not surprisingly, the alternate juror, herself a teacher, found the testimony of Billy Doe's former teachers to be credible. Especially when they testified about how only eighth grade boys were big and strong enough to be members of the bell choir maintenance crew.
The prosecution's story line was that 10 year-old fifth grader Billy Doe, four feet tall and 63 pounds, was lifting the 30-pound bells as a member of the bell choir maintenance crew. He was putting away the bells by himself and that's when Father Avery hit on him.
The alternate juror did not like the way the lead prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Mark Cipolletti, attacked Billy's former grade school teachers on cross-examination.
"I felt it was a vicious prosecution to start with," she said. "The prosecution was nasty to everybody who stepped up there."
As she took notes in a notebook, the alternate juror recalled feeling, "I'm going to find it super-frustrating" to watch the prosecutor "drag these women through the mud."
"I believed the teachers without a doubt," she said. "I've seen those giant bells."
Similarly, the alternate juror was alarmed by the prosecution's attack on Louise Hagner, the social worker from the archdiocese who took notes on what Billy told her.
"Louise Hagner, I felt terrible the whole time" the social worker was on the witness stand, the juror said. "I could only think this woman's just doing her job ... Watching her testify and how they treated her was terrible. It makes it sort of scary to be a social worker" if the prosecution is going to treat "every social worker who takes a statement" like they have "an agenda," she said.
The alternate juror found it incredible that Billy Doe remembered so many details of what he said and did moments before he got into a car occupied by two archdiocese social workers.
He had just come back from the methadone clinic.
He remembered the social workers calling him on his cell phone and knocking on his door. He remembered his father telling him not to talk to the social workers. He remembered telling the social workers to drive down the street and wait a few minutes and he would come out and talk to them. He remembered that Hagner was from the archdiocese and she was taking notes.
And then, almost magically, the moment after he got in the car, he could not remember anything he told Hagner because he was high on heroin.
"I think that was crazy," the alternate juror said. "I felt like he [Billy Doe] was filling holes with whatever he wanted [us] to believe. I'm supposed to believe that he can't remember anything? A [social worker] would know if he was so impaired that he wouldn't remember."
"That to me that seemed very engineered," she said.
She did not hold it against either defendant that they didn't take the witness stand to testify.
"I can't imagine what kind of an ordeal that is to go through," she said. "Father Engelhardt seemed much more stoic to me ... Every time Bernard Shero cried, I almost cried myself."
"It was insane to watch people treated that way," she said. "It was crazy to watch this play out."
And then Father Avery showed up, fresh out of prison, to recant his guilty plea, and say he never touched Billy Doe. He just pleaded guilty because the prosecution gave him a sweetheart deal.
"Oh my God, that was the craziest day," she said. "It was both sad and like, what the hell is going on?"
She noticed Avery's "poorly fitting" prison outfit. And she couldn't believe that Cipolletti engaged Avery in an argument over whether he'd been defrocked or laicized.
"Are we really having a semantics issue?" the alternate juror recalled thinking. What difference does it make? Either way, Avery is still an ex-priest.
By this time, "I had already made up by mind that Cipolletti was a bully," she said. "This guy's a jerk. He's s so snotty he couldn’t talk to anybody. I hope that I'm never up against D.A. Cipolletti because hes a snotty jerk."
Amazingly, the alternate juror believed the smiling padre was telling the truth.
"I did believe him," she said. "I think for the same reason that I would take a plea if I was staring down the barrel of a gun."
The alternate juror praised the "no-nonsense" way Judge Ellen Ceisler presided over the trial, rebuking lawyers for "theatrics," and keeping the case on schedule, so that the people on the jury could get back to their normal lives.
"I thought she was a fabulous judge," she said.
She wasn't impressed by the defense attorneys.
"McGovern, he was kind of like a cartoon," she said. "I could picture him as a D.A. with his little mustache," she said. "I think he's a much more intelligent and thoughtful man than he came off as."
McGovern represented Father Engelardt. Burton Rose, the lawyer who represented Bernard Shero, was obviously sick during the trial, and was always sneezing and blowing his nose.
"You almost wished for a more suave type," she said. "The case against Shero was the weakest."
Even though personally, she found Shero to be "so creepy looking," she did not take Shero's suicide note as an admission of guilt.
"He had been so through so much and his family had been through so much," she said. "He was being paraded around. Who's to say the strongest among us wouldn’t have done the same thing? He was so embarrassed for his family."
"He wasn’t writing that to explain the away the problem," she said. "He was thanking his family for being so amazing and saying, I don’t want to put you through it. It was a letter to his family about what was going to happen next. It wasn't about what was happening now."
What was the juror's takeaway from her first brush with the criminal justice system?
"Innocent until proven guilty," she said. But, "that's not the case if you're a Catholic priest."
The woman who is not a Catholic said there has been so much publicity over the sex scandals in the Catholic church that "priests are assumed to be guilty immediately."