When Assistant District Attorney Peter Carr stood to begin oral arguments today in Superior Court, Presiding Judge Anne E. Lazarus let him know before he said a word that he was facing an uphill climb.
"You've got your work cut out for you," she warned Carr.
During the hearing, allegations of judicial errors and prosecutorial misconduct were piling up as defense lawyers for Father Charles Engelhardt and former Catholic school teacher Bernard Shero argued that their clients deserved a new trial.
Carr attempted to blow off most of the accusations as a "harmless error" here, a "not consequential" error there, and, best of all, "certainly not a "reversible error."
But Judge Lazarus cut him off and said she agreed that when weighed individually the errors might indeed be minor. But the judge said there were so many errors and her concern was that the "quantitative effect" of all those errors might have fundamentally compromised the defendants' rights to a fair trial.
It was the most powerful moment of the hearing. A half-dozen blocks away at the district attorney's office, you could almost hear Seth Williams screaming.
In the D.A.'s self-described "historic" prosecution of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Superior Court has already reversed the conviction of Msgr. William J. Lynn. In court today, defense lawyers were seeking reversals for two more defendants in that historic prosecution -- Engelhardt and Shero. Would hitting the trifecta on reversals make appellate history?