By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Will Cardinal Bevilaqua’s death (see related story) affect the ongoing priest-abuse case?  Not much, says one legal expert who is very familiar with the case.

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There is now a gag order imposed on all parties in the case (related story), so neither the prosecution nor defense can make statements in reaction to Bevilacqua’s death.

Bevilaqua underwent a deposition in November, and a judge this week overruled defense claims that he was not a competent witness (another related story).

Charles Peruto Jr., the former counsel for one of the accused priests and a longtime defense attorney, says Bevilaqua’s death changes nothing.

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“It has absolutely no legal significance since the judge already ruled that his testimony is admissable at trial, as he was subject to direct and cross examination previously,” Peruto tells KYW Newsradio.

Peruto says defense lawyers would have to present previously unknown evidence, and get the judge to change her mind, in order to keep out the cardinal’s deposition.

Peruto says the prosecution has suffered “no loss with the cardinal’s death.”

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