February 14, 2005

No: Reasonable doubt ignored by jury tarnishes any victory

Fort Wayne News-Sentinel

Knight Ridder Newspapers

(KRT) - When Paul Shanley is escorted out of the Cambridge, Mass., courtroom Tuesday after his sentencing for the serial rapes of a Sunday school student in the 1980s, he will be marching toward his death. Not that there's capital punishment in Massachusetts, but whatever term the 74-year-old defrocked priest gets will be de-facto equal to life.

If he's lucky. I have zero faith in the corrections system that allowed the prison murder of fellow molester ex-priest John Geoghan keeping the even more notorious Shanley alive.

And who'd miss him? After last week's verdict, untold others prevented by statute of limitations from ever telling a courtroom their tales of abuse at the hands of the charismatic priest shed tears of relief. For three years I have been indelibly touched by their horrific stories and can only grasp at a hint of their pain. But if Shanley's conviction is viewed by them as a victory, it's a hollow one.

Our legal system hinges on reasonable doubt, and it abounds in this case. Rather than in the courtroom, Shanley's real trial was held in a hotel ballroom three years earlier, where a lawyer playing judge, jury and executioner wowed a throng of journalists and live TV audience with a PowerPoint presentation of voluminous church files to deem the priest as the devil incarnate.

Posted by kshaw at February 14, 2005 07:18 AM