After 11 days of deliberation, more than 1,900 exhibits and more than two months of testimony, the jury in the Philadelphia priest sex-abuse trial reported late Wednesday morning that they have reached unanimity on one charge but that they have not been able to agree on four other charges.
The foreperson wrote that 10 jurors are firm on their opinions. One juror was going to reread a file and might change that juror’s vote, but the jury would still be hung, the foreperson said in the jury’s note.
“Your honor, at this time, we the jury are at a hung jury status,” the foreperson’s note said.
Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina instructed the jury to keep working. After deliberating for an estimated 85 minutes after the judge told the jurors to keep working, the jury was sent home around 4 p.m. Wednesday, ending the 12th day of deliberation.
The jury is slated back at 9:30 a.m. Friday. The judge said the jury was getting today off because “one of the jurors has a family matter, an important family matter.”
When giving the Spencer charge — which is given to juries who have indicated they are hung — Sarmina said that the court would give any clarifying instructions they might need and that she would authorize for the trial testimony of two alleged victims as well as an alleged victim’s mother to be read back to them.
The jury did not ask for anything else on Wednesday despite Sarmina’s offer.
Sarmina told the attorneys, before the jury was brought out, that she would authorize that testimony of the alleged victims and the alleged victim’s mother to be read back at this point — in case it was the factor that was hanging up the jury in reaching a verdict.
Previously, Sarmina told the jury they could not have the testimony. One of the alleged victims testified over the course of two days, so reading back the testimony of those three witnesses would likely take three days.
Sarmina said it would be worth it to spend three days reading back the testimony if that was what was hanging up the jury.
The jurors have appeared stoic, calm and inscrutable.
Defense attorney William Brennan moved for a mistrial because of that portion of the Spencer charge. Brennan said Sarmina was turning the Spencer charge into the “Sarmina- Spencer ” charge and that “ you have in effect made yourself the 13th juror” by highlighting one of the specific areas that the jury inquired about.
Prosecutor Patrick Blessington said that the Spencer charge was essential and is the equivalent of an explosion to force jurors to keep working. The point of the charge is, “I’ll quote no less than the authority of Mr. Brennan, is, ‘Do your job,’” Blessington said.
The jurors had to be told that they must reach a verdict one way or the other unless it would violate their conscience, Blessington said.
Even the American Bar Association, which Blessington called “the mouthpiece of the defense bar,” opines that deadlocked juries should be instructed that they must reach a verdict unless they would be doing violence to their consciences.
Brennan, however, said that the verdict should be taken as it stood Wednesday.
While Sarmina told the jurors that it should not be a factor in their decision, she did tell them that the case may have to be retried all over again and that there was no reason to think that the court would be able to pick any other group of 12 jurors better able to analyze the case and reach a verdict.
Defendant Monsignor William J. Lynn is accused of endangering the welfare of two men who testified they were respectively abused by James Brennan, who is maintaining his innocence, and former priest Edward V. Avery, who pled guilty to the abuse. Lynn was the secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004 and responsible for investigating alleged sexual abuse by priests as well as making recommendations about assigning priests to the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua.
Lynn also is accused of conspiring with Avery to endanger the welfare of D.G. and other unnamed youths. Sarmina acquitted James Brennan and Lynn of a conspiracy charge levied against both of them regarding M.B.
James Brennan is accused of the attempted rape and endangering the welfare of M.B.
The Legal is not naming the alleged victims.