Saturday, October 25, 2008

Jury finds Episcopal bishop did not commit fraud in defrocking of priest

During the four-day civil trial, Moyer's attorney, John Lewis, presented documents suggesting Bennison concealed from Moyer his plan to remove him without a church trial. However, the 12-member jury never got to deliberate whether that constituted fraud.

Instead, Judge Joseph Smyth instructed jurors to first determine if the diocese engaged in fraud when it asserted that Moyer "abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church" in 2002.

That question was the "gateway" to all the other questions, Smyth told them, and trumped the question of whether Bennison deceived Moyer about a trial.

If they decided fraud did not "pervade" the diocese's decision process regarding the abandonment of communion, Smyth said, the case was over.

In less than three hours - including lunch - the jury announced that it had reached a verdict. When it returned, the forewoman told the judge that only two jurors had found fraud on the critical question.

The verdict seemed to shock Moyer, who shook his head slightly and then gazed down at the table.

The judge smiled broadly as the courtroom began to empty. On Wednesday, after Bennison's attorney, Mary Kohart, asked him to throw the case out on constitutional grounds, Smyth said from the bench that he was uncomfortable with civil courts' judging the internal workings of a church. The jurors had been in recess at the time of those remarks.

More here-

No comments: