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Jury Deliberations Begin In Philadelphia Priest Sex Abuse Trial

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Steve Tawa Steve Tawa
Steve Tawa joined KYW Newsradio in 1990, and splits his time between...
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By Steve Tawa and Tony Hanson

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — After all-day closing arguments on Thursday, the judge in the landmark clergy child sex abuse case charged the jury this morning, and deliberations followed.

The lead defendant, Monsignor William Lynn, is the first US Roman Catholic church official to be charged criminally with child endangerment.

This morning, the jury was instructed on familiar and not-so-familiar legal concepts of law, including the presumption of innocence, reasonable doubt, consciousness of guilt, and accomplice liability.

Lynn’s co-defendant, Father James Brennan, did not testify.  The judge explained that was Brennan’s right and cannot be held against him.

Lynn did testify, and the judge told the jury that, as with other witnesses, it should consider his credibility.  The judge also said the jury should weigh Lynn’s testimony against his obviously vital interest in outcome of the case.

Yesterday, defense lawyer Thomas Bergstrom told jurors that, like the play and movie “12 Angry Men,” this case was about reasonable doubt, which he called an enormous safeguard in the justice system.

He told jurors that if they “hesitate” after listening to the judge’s charge on that point, Lynn should be acquitted on two counts of child endangerment and conspiracy.

Bergstrom argued that prosecutors were seeking to convict Lynn for “documenting the evil that other men did.”

The defense claimed the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua had the final say on priest placements.

Assistant district attorney Patrick Blessington called that a “blatant attempt to deceive jurors and misrepresent the law.”  He contended that Lynn kept pedophile priests in ministry and the public in the dark.

Blessington said that rather than call police or quit, Lynn — whom he sarcastically described as “our hero” — tried to protect the Catholic Church  “at the expense of children being exposed to sexual assault by priests.”

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