The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Friday, October 9, 2009
Clergy sex abuse victims respond to new VT Supreme Court ruling
Statement by SNAP National Outreach Director Barbara Dorris, 314-862-7688, 314-503-0003
We are grateful that the court found this particular Catholic juror was biased. And we are saddened, in this case and hundreds like it across the country, to see reputed spiritual figures acting like cold-hearted CEOs, trying to exploit a narrow legal technicality (the statute of limitations) to escape responsibility for a proven serial predator. We long for the day when Catholic bishops will fight child sex abuse victims on the merits, not on the technicalities, of their cases.
It's especially egregious when church authorities take advantage of the statute of limitations in cases where there's no doubt that abuse has happened.
We commend brave Mr. Turner for persisting in his effort to find justice and healing, and to use the courts to expose the recklessness and deceit of high-ranking church officials who knowingly enabled a child molesting cleric to hurt other children.
Finally, it is important to remember that more and more often, child sex crimes from years ago, even decades old, can be and are being exposed through the justice system. More than ever, police and prosecutors have the tools and the will to go after horrific crimes, even when the defendants are seemingly powerful individuals or institutions. And more than ever, judges and juries understand that child sex victims can almost never immediately report the horrific crimes they're experiencing. So we hope Mr. Turner's courage, and the courage of other Vermont abuse victims, will inspire others who were hurt in childhood to come forward, call police, expose predators, protect kids and start healing.
When victims & witnesses stay silent, nothing changes. When victims and witnesses speak up, at least sometimes a child is protected, the truth is exposed, and justice is done.
Supreme court overturns first diocese verdict
October 9, 2009
The Vermont Supreme Court today reversed the verdict in the first priest molestation case to go to trial in the state, issuing its ruling while the outcome of the latest such case was still being worked on by a Burlington jury.
In a 5-0 decision, the high court said Judge Ben Joseph was wrong to overturn a part of a 2007 jury decision that former altar boy James Turner waited too long to file his lawsuit seeking damages from the diocese for being molested by the Rev. Alfred Willis.
The justices, however, also said one of the jurors who sat on the Turner case was too biased to have been on the jury.
As a result, the high court ordered that the case in its entirety be retried.
Lawyers for Turner, who also represent the alleged priest molestation victim in the case now the subject of jury deliberations in Burlington, declined comment on the high court’s ruling and whether it will impact either of the two cases that had jury verdicts trial since 2007.
Turner, in his lawsuit, claimed Willis molested him at a Latham, N.Y., motel following a family celebration to honor Turner’s brother becoming a priest.
Several years later, according to testimony in the case, Turner’s brother told Turner that Willis had been fired by the dicoese after getting into trouble concerning conduct with boys.
The jury found that Turner should have filed his lawsuit within six years of that date. Joseph disagreed, but the high court said the jury got it right.
But, in another part of the Supreme Court’s decision, it said the court also erred by allowing a juror to be seated despite evidence the juror was an active Catholic who was familiar with the diocese’s views on the molestation cases.
As of noon today, jurors in the present case, involving claims by a former altar boy who was molested by the Rev. Edward Paquette in the 1970s, have spent almost 14 hours in deliberations without reaching a verdict.
Retrial for priest abuse case - Published: October 9, 2009
The state Supreme Court called Friday for a retrial in the first of nearly 40 priest misconduct lawsuits against Vermont's Catholic Church.
In December 2007, a Chittenden Superior Court jury ordered the statewide Roman Catholic Diocese to pay Northeast Kingdom native James Turner $15,000 for civil claims that it failed to protect him from child sexual abuse at the hands of the former Rev. Alfred Willis, a priest in Burlington, Montpelier and Milton before being defrocked in 1985.
Lawyers for both the plaintiff and defense appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court, which called Friday for a new trial.
In its ruling, the state's highest court agreed with the diocese that the superior court judge should have let the jury decide whether the case was filed within Vermont's statutes of limitations. It also agreed with the plaintiff that one juror had strong ties to diocese and therefore was biased.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests