Jury Selection Begins in Church Sex Abuse Trial
Lawyers and a judge on Tuesday launched what they say could be a monthlong effort to impanel a jury to decide the fate of three Archdiocese of Philadelphia priests accused of endangering or molesting children.
About 250 prospective jurors completed the first step - a questionnaire on their backgrounds, beliefs, and ability to serve.
Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina canceled an afternoon session so she could review the first batch of surveys. She did not explain her decision, but ordered prosecutors and defense attorneys to resume the process in court Wednesday.
Both sides hope to settle on 12 jurors and 10 alternates. The trial, scheduled to begin March 26, is expected to last four months and draw national attention.
The lead defendant, Msgr. William J. Lynn, is the first church official nationwide to be charged with covering up clergy sex abuse.
Prosecutors contend that Lynn, the archdiocese’s secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, endangered children by recommending priests for parish assignments despite suspecting that they might molest children.
They intend to introduce hundreds of records from the church’s “secret archives” - confidential files that document allegations and investigations into misconduct and sexual abuse.
Awaiting trial with Lynn are two men he recommended for parish assignments, the Rev. James J. Brennan and Edward V. Avery, a former priest. Each is accused of molesting a boy in the late 1990s. Avery was defrocked in 2006.
A fourth cleric and a former Catholic-school teacher face similar charges but will be tried separately.
All have pleaded not guilty.