February 08, 2005

Compelling witness overrode questions on memories

Boston Globe

By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff | February 8, 2005

The lawyer for defrocked priest Paul R. Shanley gambled that jurors wouldn't believe that the priest's accuser suddenly remembered sexual abuse from two decades earlier.

Defense attorney Frank Mondano was so confident in the strategy that the only witness he called was Elizabeth Loftus, a professor at the University of California at Irvine, who testified that false memories can be placed by psychotherapists in susceptible minds.

Even some lawyers who thought Shanley was guilty said Mondano might have succeeded in convincing the jury of seven men and five women that there were serious questions about the credibility of Shanley's accuser.

But the Middlesex County jury believed the accuser, and Mondano lost his gamble.

Patrick Kierce, a member of the jury that convicted Shanley, said he had no reason to doubt the 27-year-old accuser, who testified that Shanley repeatedly raped and fondled him at St. Jean the Evangelist Parish in Newton in the 1980s.

Kierce, who lives in Medford, said the accuser's emotional testimony struck him as ''heartfelt."

Posted by kshaw at February 8, 2005 07:06 AM