February 19, 2005

Religion questions for jurors ruled out

Alameda Times-Star

By Glenn Chapman, STAFF WRITER

OAKLAND Potential jurors in upcoming Catholic priest sex abuse trials shouldn't be asked invasive questions about their religious beliefs or schooling, the judge coordinating the Clergy III cases said Friday.

While wading through a plethora of pretrial motions and with the first clergy abuse trials to start in a matter of weeks, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Ronald Sabraw addressed concerns about what members of the jury pool would be asked or told.

"The court will not permit questions that are unreasonably intrusive, such as questions about jurors' race, religious beliefs, religious training and current religious habits," Sabraw said in a written ruling. "Nor will the court permit questions designed to poll the jury, condition the jury or to pre-try the case."

Attorney Richard Simons, the liaison counsel for the approximately 200 plaintiffs involved in the 160 cases under the Clergy III umbrella, argued that it was important to know jurors' views on theology because damage claims include asking for cash compensation for losing one's religion. Simons expressed concern that a jury might end up including someone who thought religion worthless.

Posted by kshaw at February 19, 2005 05:57 AM