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.