By Kay Ebeling
One of the questions was, “How many of you believe the Catholic Church has covered up sex crimes?” Every potential juror in the first day of voir dire raised their hand, in the Salesian cases which settled before going to trial this week in LA. At another point attorneys asked, how many of you think a Catholic priest will lie under oath to protect the church and, again, every one of them raised their hands.
Emilie Elias is a no-nonsense judge who was really glaring down from the bench just like the picture at left in the settlement hearing Wednesday in LA Superior Court. She presides in a community full of no-nonsense people. I looked at that jury and they were ready, savage with pencils poised to find a hundred reasons to award punitive damages if the cases went to trial. The Salesian defense was not going to be able to do the dance around justice they pulled off in San Francisco in 2006. Wayne Morse slouched home to Texas in tears.
The day before the settlement in LA, a jury in Vermont came back with the largest civil award in the state's history, $7,750,000 in punitive damages against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, which might have been on the Salesians attorneys' mind Tuesday night when they agreed to settle. One altar boy from Vermont held out, refused to settle with about 18 other cases earlier this year, insisted on a jury trial, and was awarded $950,000 compensatory along with the record breaking $7.75 million award in punitive damages. The Burlington verdict, reached by the jury in less than five hours, is a signal to the Roman Catholic Church. People who serve on juries are ready to award massive amounts to plaintiffs when given the chance to decide punitive damages.
In a phone interview Friday morning, plaintiff attorney Tony DeMarco described voir dire: “The judge’s perspective was, okay, everybody knows about the settlements in LA last year, that's a given.”
The judge instructed the jury: “You've got to ask about the facts of this case, this particular case. The jury has to be fair on the facts of this case, listen to evidence and render on the facts here. Not on the other cases in LA last year.”
It’s likely impossible to find 11 people in Los Angeles who wouldn't find the archdiocese and all its Manchurian responders guilty.
The judge realized the predicament and resolved it with a legal swipe which is apparently Emilie Elias’ style. Earlier I observed that instead of pretrial hearings, Judge Emilie Elias did away with about 27 motions in limine from the defendants for these cases by bringing all the attorneys into her chambers to talk over refreshments, then looking at each of them squarely and saying, Listen. . .
DeMarco said. Sure it was likely there would be a huge award from the jury as in Vermont if we went to trial, but then the cases would spend years in appeals.
In Vermont less than 24 hours after the 7 plus million in punitives to one altar boy, the case was under appeal.
Evidence from the 2008 Salesian cases in LA will dribble out.
And be reported here at City of Angels
In other deposition testimony, Howse had revealed that all the boys at St. Mary's in Edmonton avoided the infirmary. They knew if you went to the infirmary, you were going to be sexually molested by Father Jim Miani or one of the others. (See Lester Howse in the video at top of page.)
Howse said kids would vomit in the closet and have raging fevers but refuse to go to the infirmary because of the sexual abuse at St. Mary’s in Edmonton, negligenty supervised by the Salesians who have to pay $19.5 million to 17 plaintiffs after the decision in LA Superior Court this week.
In the settlement hearing Ray Boucher for the plaintiffs told the jury that their very presence weighed on defense attorneys, just their being there had power in the move to settle the cases.
Me, I saw that jury, and I think they couldn't wait to go for punitive damages in the triple millions, I could see the rage in their faces as they sat there, they were looking forward to passing judgment on the Salesians.
The plaintiff in the Salesian cases that settled spoke to me about sitting in on voir dire:
“I got the feeling immediately that the jury connected with me. Still it wasn’t easy to know that my life was going to be out there.
"All of a sudden you realize what depths they will go to, to not be held accountable, to make me look guilty instead."
“They weren't going to get away with it," she said, "because I said to my family, look I made some mistakes and you're going to hear about them in the trial. I'm not perfect.”
DeMarco said, “Steve McFeely stands up and starts asking questions and he is not someone people like. He was trying to get the jury riled. But then they all raised their hands. I thought he was trying to get the whole jury pool booted.”
DeMarco said, “With the evidence we had, all the evidence we were going to be able to present, and I think Judge Elias would have let all of it in, the jury could have put the Salesians out of business.”
COMING THIS WEEKEND :
The Salesians Society say they will sell the mansion on Franklin Street in San Francisco to pay for the settlement in LA.
What are they going to do with the other several million they'll make on the real estate sale?
Now that all the cases are settled, DeMarco is preparing a motion for release of personnel documents of every perpetrator in the LA and San Diego cases settled last year.
All to be explained in posts coming up this weekend. . .
in 2009 our ongoing coverage of the pedophile epidemic in the Catholic Church will be at City fAngels5. in 2010 at CityofAngels8
Friday, May 16, 2008
How many believe Catholic priests will lie under oath to cover up sex crimes? Every potential juror raised their hands
CALL: Target Crimes, LA DA's Office, to report sex crimes in the Catholic Church: Phone: (213) 974-5985