Thursday, July 12, 2012

Inside The Jury Room

On the charge of attempted rape, the jury voted 11-1 to acquit Father James J. Brennan.

On the charge of endangering the welfare of children, Father Brennan dodged a bullet. All the jurors believed that Father Brennan had endangered the welfare of 14-year-old Mark Bukowski by allowing the boy to access pornography on the internet, and by subsequently getting in bed with him.

But because the judge's instructions required the jury to find that Father Brennan had also endangered other victims in addition to 14-year-old Mark Bukowski, the jury ended up almost evenly split on whether Father Brennan should have been convicted.

Regarding Msgr. William J. Lynn, at least one juror believed that the monsignor should also have been convicted of conspiracy.

These are some of the reflections of Taleah Grimmage, Juror No. 7.

Grimmage has sent several emails commenting on what happened behind the scenes at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial. Juror No. 7 also had something to say about public reaction to the verdict. Let's let Taleah speak for herself:

Good Morning,

I happened to come across your blog on-line and have been reading some of the posts. I have also been reading some of the posts on other message boards and am a little annoyed with what people seem to think happened during deliberations.

I was selected to be Juror #7 in this trial, so I know first hand what took place starting with opening arguments through deliberations. I read that sentencing is scheduled to take place on July 24th and my plan is to be there.

I want people to know that all of us tried our best to come up with a verdict we could live with. Deliberations were very frustrating and tense for many of us, and believe me, that we were very close to not even achieving the verdict that we had! This fact alone both angered and frustrated me. (Unfortunately, I don't have enough time at the moment to write what happened from soup to nuts) From the judge's instructions to the personalities in the jury room; it all played a part in the outcome.

Please tell your readers that while on the outside it appeared that we were stalling, we truly were working as hard as we could.


Taleah Grimmage

I asked Taleah about Father James J. Brennan. Here's what she had to say:

I'm glad you asked about Father Brennan. The issue with Father Brennan came down to Judge Sarmina's instructions.

The EWOC [endanger the welfare of children] charge for Father Brennan had the phrase "and other unamed minors." That's were many of us traveled down the rabbit hole.

You might remember that a few questions were sent out regarding what "other unnamed minors meant" and "why" we HAD to believe that Father Brennan endangered others in addition to Mark Bukowski (the victim in question).

Many of us believed that both Father Brennan and Mark were telling untruths in portions of their testimony. We treid to focus on the elements that they both agreed happened, which was the fact that Brennan either showed Mark pornography or at the very least allowed him to access it, while in his care. Many of us felt that is endangering behavior; showing a child pornographic materials. It wasn't too far fetched to believe that if you allowed one child to access porn, or if you did molest this child, then its a possibility that there were other children at risk (students at Cardinal O'Hara, the other Bukowski children he came in contact with etc).

Some of the jurors felt that because Father Brennan had this ONE complaint in the history of his priesthood, this was an isolated incident and they had trouble believing that Father Brennan was a general danger to others. If Seth Williams were to ask me if he should retry it. I would tell him that the jury vote was almost split in the middle, and it would have been most likely unanimous had they removed the unnamed minors language, which I now understand had to do with the statute of limitations.

We all thought that Brennan endangered Mark, we all could not agree whether he endangered others. One juror didn't believe that Brennan would ever act the same in similar circumstances going forward.

The attempted rape charge was nearly unanimous but for one juror.

Father Brennan dodged a bullet indeed. I often wonder if it's because through all of this, he seemed to be the only priest with any sort of spiritual element to him, as we saw from his writings during his tenure at the Monestary and during his leave of absence.

One other thing, is I wish they could select jurors who honestly have a basic comprehension of the law. Some people seem to think "beyond a reasonable doubt" actually means beyond ALL doubt."

Many of us tried in vain to explain the difference, but alas, when you have John Q. Public, you have to deal with real people who may only have a street knowledge of the law which I guess is the reason our system works the way it does.

Don't get me started on the Conspiracy charge. My stomach is still in knots. I dont think we made the right decision there.

Juror No. 7 declined to discuss the matter further, except to say that "this trial was very emotional for me."

She did have some further comments on Father Brennan:

The 11-1 was to acquit for Brennan's rape charge. We ALL would've been happy to convict if it had been molestation or "groping" or something like that. Once Judge Sarmina explained that attempted rape had to have the intent to commit the act of rape, being penetration by force (either physical or psychological) we knew we couldn't convict. Had Mark testified that Father Brennan tried to pull his shorts down, or even fondle him it would've helped. Just "spooning" someone isn't enough to say they tried to rape you. Mark also testified that they were both clothed during this encounter.

Juror No. 7 also thought that the behavior of Mark Bukowski's parents was strange. As someone who sat in on the trial, I would have to agree. Here's what Juror No. 7 had to say about the Bukowskis:

Personally, I think [Mark's mother] was attracted to Fr. Brennan. I think she saw him as this young hip, priest she could talk to and drink with. I'm not sure what to make of her husband ... We didn't hear from him, but I think its odd that any man would allow his wife to stay up at night drinking with another man, priest or not. I also personally think that any parent who thinks their kid was molested and thinks the best way to investigate the situation, is going to brunch at the Marriott is borderline mentally ill. I have no idea what their motivation was for that. Why they didn't go to the police and let THEM sort it out is beyond me.

I also think [Mark's mother] felt like Brennan owed her a favor, and that's why she asked to have Mark do his community service at the Parish. Again, if you suspect that a priest may have touched your child, I have no idea why you still talk to this person let alone put your son in his care again.  I don't know if the Bukowskis really believed Mark's whole story initially. I mean you have this kid, who's getting into trouble, probably lying about other things, all a manipulator like Brennan has to do (again, that's IF you believe Brennan is a manipulator) is convince you that your juvenile delinquent son is doing what he does best; make up stories.

I thought Mark was telling the truth and I think he suffers from what a lot of middle children suffer from, wanting to get attention. I don't believe one word of the "shed story" and I think Mark added it in to make an already horrible story seem more horrific.

I do think Brennan stopped himself that night from going further. It's also possible that because he was molested himself, he stopped because he identified with his own abusers that night and that scared him, and then of course he's off to the Monastery to reflect on his own spirituality.

I would like to thank Juror No. 7 for sharing her insights, which I thought were fascinating. I would like to invite other jurors to contribute their own thoughts. Maybe we can make this a regular feature.


  1. I was in the courtroom also and I am dying to know how they got to the EWOC conviction, and what they thought about conspiracy!

  2. Thanks so much for posting this. I look forward to hearing more.

  3. Taleah,

    It's good to hear from a member of the jury. I give you and your fellow jurors credit for a job well done.

    I am not surprised to hear that the sole conviction was not a foregone conclusion. I heard the charge that was given to you that day, and I believe that you all did the best that could be expected given the legal complexities of conspiracy.

    The four elements were not all met. The evidence did not prove that the men conspired. In my view, you got it right. Regardless of our biases it should not be easy to put someone away.

    It is not the jury's fault that Krol, Bevilacqua, and Rigali, have evaded justice. Thanks to you, at least Lynn did not. Judge Sarmina was clear that even the lawyers disagree on the interpretation of the conspiracy law.

    Your misgivings of your fellow jurors notwithstanding, your efforts in conjunction with the prosecutors, and investigators have broken the ground for similar cases in the future.

    Please do not give undue consideration to the opinions of those folks who have been commenting online. You know what they say about opinions, and none of you owe any of us any apologies. However, I do appreciate the reporting of what had transpired.

    I am sorry to hear that one or more had difficulty with even a
    basic understanding of "reasonable doubt". That is disappointing, but it is not a perfect system.

    Thanks again for speaking. I look forward to further discussions. It is clear that you care.

  4. Ralph,

    Another epic post. Always interesting to hear the insights of a juror. As always, they demonstrate that their decision making process is rational. In other words, there is a factual and legal basis for their verdict. I think factually, they got the Brennan/Bukowski part of the case right based upon the evidence presented and seemed to valiantly wade through what were probably very confusing jury instructions on the key charges. Their distinction about attempted penetration by Brennan is consistent with the evidence and jury charge. It seems as though they were thoughtful with respect to Lynn as well. Regardless of your view of the case, this was an unusual application of the EWOC and conspiracy statutes with respect to both defendants; and it is perfectly understandable why they would have problems applying the law to these particular facts.

    The level of certainty required to meet the Beyond a Reasonable Doubt standard is always difficult. In criminal procedure class, you discuss the differences between reasonable suspicion, probable cause, preponderance, clear and convincing, and beyond a reasonable doubt. You understand it from a relative perspective: beyond a reasonable doubt is a higher standard than a reasonable suspicion; but it is impossible to define the terms on an absolute objective basis even within the context of a law school class or lecture to lawyers. When is a doubt reasonable or unreasonable? Talk to any parent and they will disagree on what kind of concerns are reasonable or unreasonable. It really depends upon the "reasonableness" of the particular parent. No juror feels that he or she is individually an unreasonable person. But people's doubts can be reasonable or unreasonable depending upon their perspective. Personally, I feel that any person's doubts about the reality of evolution or climate change are unreasonable based upon the prevailing evidence. But "reasonable" people certainly have doubts about both.

    Look at the PSU case. There are still defenders of JoePa out there who want to claim that the new emails and evidence doesn't prove that he was aware of the '98 incident before the '01 incident; and that he was not motivated to avoid embarrassment to his beloved football program. Is that "reasonable?" Again, personally, I feel you have to be delusional to believe that any normal person thought that repeatedly showering with young boys in a college locker room wasn't suspect behavior warranting a call to the cops or social workers--particularly when a respected grad student said it looked very fishy and sexual; but apparently there are "reasonable" people who still have doubts about JoePa's response.

    I said it initially, trial results are overwhelmingly related to the jurors selected. They generally deliberate rationally and reasonably; but the outcome is very dependent upon their own subjective interpretations and sensibilities; and highly dependent upon their own life experiences. They are not as "persuadable" as we would like to think. They line up the evidence to fit their world view and perspective; but in most cases, the process works and they come together to render a verdict that is rationally based upon the evidence and jury instructions.

  5. Hi everyone, This is Taleah Grimmage (Juror #7).

    I stated before that my stomach was in knots about the conspiracy charge because, almost every single juror believed that there was a conspiracy. We just didnt believe that the conspiracy was to endanger children.

    I specifically requested that the foreman send out a question (which he did) asking if result of a conspiracy was that a child was endangered, did the endangerment also have to be the intent.

    Judge Sarmina told us that it did, which made it nearly impossible to convict, with the elements that we were given of conspiracy.

    Once the trial was over, I asked one of the DA's why the Conspiracy was to EWOC (endangering the welfare of children). He stated that every conspiracy has to have a goal. Well why on earth didnt they charge him with Conspiracy to commit fraud, or something like that?

    We ALL agreed that they conspired to hide things from the parishoners and keep things hush hush to continue receieving monies and etc. and as a result kids were endnagered, but we didnt believe the endangerment was the actual goal.

    I'm sick about this because i felt like my hands were tied, and I personally dont think it matters whether the object is endangerment. In my opinion, its fruit of the posionous tree.

    One juror used the example: if you rob a bank and during the course of a robbery, a guard is killed. You conspired to rob the bank, you didnt conspire to commit murder. We all agreed with this example.

    However in some states, the murder would be part and parcel and you'd be convicted of that as well. I was one of the last hold outs on ths conspiracy charge until the very last day. I almost wish I HAD held out so at the very least the commonwealth could retry it under a different conspiracy charge. But alas, he was acquitted so, thats that.


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