By Tony Hanson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Jury selection begins today in the clergy abuse trial of Monsignor William Lynn, Father James Brennan and former priest Edward Avery, who was defrocked. The process of picking a fair and impartial jury is expected to take a month or so.
The court will start with a large panel — a couple of hundred prospective jurors, who will fill out questionnaires to determine whether there are specific hardships that would prevent them from serving on a long trial (expected to last three to four months) and to examine prospective jurors’ knowledge of the case and whether they can be fair and impartial.
Because of the anticipated length of the trial, some in the pool of 250 people are expected to be excused because of hardship. And, because of the high-profile and highly-charged nature of this case, others could be excused because they have fixed opinions about the case (not just an opinion, but a fixed opinion that would prevent them from following the law provided by the court and acting only on the evidence presented in court).
Prospective jurors would also face individual questioning and scrutiny before being selected to serve.
Father James Brennan and Edward Avery are charged with rape (see related story). They allegedly raped boys they met through ministry. And, Monsignor William Lynn is charged with endangering the welfare of children. That is, he allegedly allowed these and other priests to remain in positions to victimize children, even though he knew of previous instances of sexual assault or inappropriate conduct.
The defense is expected to challenge the credibility of the accusers and Monsignor Lynn’s attorneys have said in courtroom arguments that the Monsignor was not aware of some allegations and the Cardinal had final say on priest placements.
These three defendants have pleaded not guilty (see related story).