PopeWatch: Cardinal Pell

Cardinal Pell’s attorney argues his appeal:

Walker outlined four different lines of argument, beginning with the logistics of Pell’s alleged 1996 sexual assault on two teenage choristers in Melbourne’s cathedral. Pell was convicted of committing acts of sexual assault on two choir boys simultaneously for five to six minutes in the cathedral sacristy, while he was fully vested after Mass. Walker suggested that would be practically impossible.

The lawyer then highlighted testimony from multiple witnesses offering an alibi for Pell during the time the assault is supposed to have taken place, and noted that the sacristy would have been a “hive of activity” at the time of the assault.

Finally, Walker pointed out changes and inconsistencies in the narrative of the sole witness-accuser to give evidence against Pell. The second alleged victim died in 2014, before the trial began; before his death he told his mother that he was not a victim of sexual abuse.

The case for Pell’s appeal is that when considering the unreliability of the single witness against him, combined with the testimony of so many witnesses in Pell’s favor and the high degree of improbability the Pell could have committed the assaults as described, the original jury could not have been persuaded beyond reasonable doubt of the cardinal’s guilt.

The Court of Appeal in Victoria, Walker argued Wednesday, should have found that reasonable doubt could not be, and was not, excluded by the jury in their decision to convict.

Walker was questioned by Justice Virginia Bell about the relevance of the accuser’s credibility at the appeal stage, noting that it was not for the High Court to determine if the jury should have believed him or not. Walker responded that it was not the perceived credibility of the accuser that was at issue, but that the accuser and the witnesses for the defense present conflicting accounts, creating reasonable doubt.

Go here to read the rest.  Cardinal Pell’s case demonstrates the folly of trial judges allowing a case with virtually no evidence supporting it to go to the jury in hopes they will sort it out.  PopeWatch believes that too often jurors will not pay attention to the burden of proof instruction in criminal cases and convict on an unsubstantiated allegation.  That stands the criminal justice system on its head and sends more than a few wrongfully convicted defendants to prison.  Judges are leery about invading the province of jury as triers of fact, but before they are to try the facts, it helps if there are facts on which to base a verdict.  An unsubstantiated allegation, with quite a bit of evidence indicating that the allegation is false, should be insufficient to have the case reach the jury.


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  1. I am gravely concerned with the extensions of statutes of limitations in my home state of Pennsylvania for just the reasons you cite. The West created statutes of limitations for specific, practical reasons; they are grounded in real experience which suggests that time is not the friend of truth.

    I am fifty. Suppose someone has thrity years to allege wrongdoing and the only evidence necessary is their “recollection”; how, pray tell, do I defend myself? The short answer is that I cannot and no attorney worth their salt will suggest that I should force the case into court. No, instead, I will be advised to settle and that is good advice but it is wrong to place someone in that position.

    People are weird and one of the weirdest things about us is that, as a mob, we are the least rational beings on earth. Wildebeasts driven off a cliff by fear of hyenas are no less stupid than a human mob.

  2. Donald McCleary, Does the following quote mean that if the Cardinal were found not guilty verdict for the appeal, the Cardinal would still have to go through another trial similar to the Aussie jury trial? “Pell is expected to face a canonical process in Rome once the final disposition of his case has been reached in Australia. If convicted by a canonical court of sexually abusing children, the cardinal would almost certainly be laicized.”

  3. Could you please remind me how I can put a different image up to ? Sorry I should have done that when you first told us

  4. There was once a time when “better than ten guilty should go free than one innocent should be convicted” was a proposition held by most. I fear we have replaced this maxim with an acceptance of conviction of the innocent being accepted as “collateral damage”. There are good reasons for statues of limitations. I was a defense attorney most of my life before serving eleven years as a prosecutor. I was always repelled by lawyers who prosecuted under the guise of “just letting the jury decide”. I felt a moral duty to prosecute no person if I had a doubt of their guilt and acted accordingly. When the only requirement for conviction is the uncorroborated statement of an accuser, particularly after a lapse of many years, the system becomes an unfunny joke. Even if the defendant is repulsive to you, it may be well to remember you may be next.

  5. After reading about the justices comments during questioning I am less optimistic than I was for an acquittal. They may well be preparing to simply find inadequate grounds to overturn the verdict and leave it at that. I expect this horrid injustice to continue. A black mark on the nation of Australia and the rule of law. I hope and pray I’m wrong.

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