By Ralph Cipriano
It took 69 days, but finally a juror in the Engelhardt-Shero case has spoken out.
The barefoot, stylish lady who came to the door accompanied by her doting husband said it all came down to the victim's testimony.
"I believed him," said the juror, who asked to remain anonymous after a reporter knocked on her door.
And while "Billy Doe," the victim in the case, may have told a story where the details varied every time he told it, his behavior remained the same. And apparently, that was the consistency this juror was looking for.
"His pattern never broke," the juror said of Billy Doe. "He started changing when he went to high school. He never broke his pattern of getting in trouble." And "his way of letting go of the pain" never varied either.
It was always drugs.
"When you're on drugs, a drug addict will tell you a lot of stories," she said. So this juror apparently gave Billy Doe a pass when his story changed every time he told it.
Because he was a consistent drug addict.
The juror recalled the wild stories that Billy Doe told Louise Hagner, the social worker from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
-- Billy Doe told Hagner that one day after Mass, Father Charles Engelhardt locked all four doors of the sacristy, took off all his clothes, and anally raped the 10-year-old altar boy for five hours. Then the priest threatened to kill Billy if he told anybody.
-- Billy Doe told Hagner that Father Edward Avery "punched him in the head" and when he woke up, the boy was naked and tied up with altar sashes.
-- Billy Doe told Hagner that Bernard Shero punched him in the face and wrapped a seatbelt around his neck before raping him in the back seat of Shero's car.
When Billy Doe retold all these stories to the police and the grand jury, all those crazy details mentioned above disappeared from his stories -- the five hours of anal sex with Father Engelhardt and the death threat from the priest; the punch in the head from Father Avery and that whole business about waking up naked and being tied up with altar sashes; and that punch in the face from Shero and the seatbelt wrapped around his neck.
All of that stuff goes out the window, and this juror wound up feeling suspicious about Hagner.
"She did not shred her notes," the juror said of Hagner.
The social worker did testify that her usual pattern was to get rid of her notes, but she could not explain in this case why she varied from her usual pattern.
To this juror, that inconsistency spoke volumes.
"And then she lawyered up," the juror said about the social worker, who passed her notes about Billy on to the archdiocese's lawyers.
As far as lawyering up, this juror was not upset by the presence of Billy Doe's civil lawyer in the courtroom almost every day, and Billy Doe's ongoing lawsuit seeking civil damages from the archdiocese.
To this juror, it was all about the suffering the victim had endured after being attacked by three rapists at St. Jerome's Church.
The juror's husband recalled the day his wife came home, and sat down at the kitchen table. As he watched, his wife bowed her head and began sobbing.
Her husband said he figured it was another rough day at the Engelhardt-Shero trial.
This juror, a mom herself, obviously has a big heart for kids.
"No amount of money is going to give him the comfort he needs," she said of Billy Doe.
The juror gave some insights into the trial. She spoke about the day the jury sent the judge a note asking what happened to Billy Doe's brother.
Billy's older brother was an eighth-grade altar boy when Billy was a fifth-grade altar boy.
The older brother gave a statement to detectives where he contradicted Billy on several key points. While Billy Doe had said Father Engelhardt first hit on him when he was putting the wine away after Communion, the older brother, who was also a church sexton, said it was the sexton's job to put away the wine after Mass, and not the altar boys.
While Billy Doe had claimed Father Engelhardt locked all four doors of the sacristy after Mass when he raped Billy Doe, the older brother told detectives the doors to the sacristy usually remained open, including one door usually propped open by a chair.
Michael J. McGovern, the defense lawyer for Father Engelhardt, had talked about the older brother's conflicting statement given to detectives. And then one day in court, McGovern asked loudly if the older brother had showed up to testify.
The prosecution said the defense had not properly served the brother with a subpoena, and he was out of town on business.
"It was a deal," the juror said of the missing brother. She did want to hear what he had to say. But she figured a lawyer could have many reasons for being out of town.
The juror had nothing but praise for her fellow jurors. It was quite a varied group, she said, with people from varied backgrounds. There were a few Catholics on the jury, and like her, a few non-Catholics. Although she has a daughter who goes to a Catholic high school.
The juror said initially, the group split 9 to 3 for convictions, and then 10 to 2. The jury foreman for a time was a hold out, so was a social worker on the jury who was looking for more proof. But the rest of the jurors explained the incidents were so long ago it was impossible to come up with the proof that this juror was looking for.
The jury was not interested in talking to the press. They were not tempted by the TV cameras waiting outside the Criminal Justice Center.
"Not this group," she said with a smile. "They were flying out of here"
"I think they were tired," she said of the 2 1/2-week trial that ended on Jan. 30. "It was quite a long trial. Every day was tense."
Jurors were told to line up to go into the courtroom. They frequently had to wait outside the courtroom in a hallway. The smokers on the jury -- she wasn't one of them -- had to go across the street together on a break, with a formal escort, just to catch a puff.
"It was like being in prison," she said.
The wildest day of the trial was when Ed Avery showed up in court in an ill-fitting prison uniform to recant his guilty plea, and tell the prosecutor he never touched Billy Doe. He only did it because he was facing 20 years if convicted and the prosecution offered a sweetheart deal -- 2 1/2 to 5 years, Avery testified.
"I think he was trying to plead his own case," she said of the defrocked priest.
Did you believe him?
"Naah," she said.
This juror was impressed by the judge. She liked the lead prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Mark Cipolletti.
"He did an awesome job," she said.
This juror was not impressed by the two defense attorneys in the case, Michael J. McGovern and Burton A. Rose.
"I didn't think they were good," she said. "I didn't like either one of them."
When told that one alternate juror had said that she didn't think a Catholic priest could get a fair trial, this juror disagreed.
"That's not so," she said. She didn't think the Catholic Church had a monopoly on sex abuse.
"I think it happens in every denomination," she said. "I think you have to hear the evidence."
Ah the evidence. There sure wasn't much in this case except for the victim's stories.
But this juror bought Billy Doe. And so did the rest of the jury.
"I don't have any doubts," she said about the convictions on nine of ten counts against the two defendants.
"I know in my heart if I was innocent, and God knew I was innocent, I would not be convicted of a crime," she said.
She seemed sincere.
Tell it to the defendants.
Ralph Cipriano has set up a special hot line for jurors at email@example.com