Jurors in priest sex-abuse trial deliberate, but have questions

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After hearing 10 weeks of testimony, jurors in a priest sexual-abuse trial in Philadelphia interrupted deliberations Monday to question the judge in the case about the legal definitions of conspiracy and child endangerment.

The jury of seven men and five women sent Judge M. Teresa Sarmina a note asking her to clarify charges against two Philadelphia priests in the groundbreaking case involving the first Roman Catholic Church official in the U.S. charged with mishandling complaints of child abuse by priests, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Msgr. William Lynn, 61, is charged with child endangerment and conspiracy, accused of covering up abuse complaints while serving as secretary for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The Rev. James J. Brennan is charged with child endangerment and attempted rape of a 14-year-old boy in 1996.


Jurors asked whether Lynn had to conspire with a convicted priest and other church officials, or with just one party, in order to be convicted of conspiracy. They also asked for clarification of the child-endangerment and attempted-rape charges.

Other jury questions focused on evidence related to Lynn and Edward Avery, a former priest who pleaded guilty before trial to conspiracy and sexual assault of a 10-year-old boy. Prosecutors allege that Lynn conspired with Avery to endanger children because Lynn knew that the priest had previously molested a boy but allowed Avery to remain at the church where the abuse took place.

Jurors also asked to see all exhibits about Avery introduced at trial. The jury began deliberating Friday afternoon.


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