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Convicted Cardinal Pell’s fate hangs on appeal

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An Australian court will rule on George Pell’s appeal against child sex abuse charges Wednesday, when the convicted cardinal could walk free or begin a new round in his protracted legal fight.

Once the Vatican’s third-ranking official, 78-year-old Pell was sentenced this year to six years in jail for sexually assaulting two 13-year-old choirboys at a Melbourne cathedral in the 1990s.

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After more than two months of deliberations, a three-judge appeals panel will hand down their decision.

Pell is the most senior Catholic convicted of child sex abuse, making his case and Wednesday’s ruling a touchstone moment for believers and victims groups around the world.

The clergyman’s lawyers raised 13 objections to his convictions, casting doubt on everything from the physical possibility of Pell removing his robes to the credibility of the main witness.

The case is unusual in that it relies heavily on the closed-door testimony of the sole surviving victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

The verdict could have wide-ranging implications for sexual assault cases that rely on the account of a single victim.

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On Monday the father of the second victim — who died of a drug overdose in 2014 — expressed hoped that “justice would prevail” and that the ordeal would soon be over.

“He just wants closure so he can try to get on with his life and stop thinking about it every single day,” lawyer Lisa Flynn told AFP.

But a quick resolution seems unlikely.

If the judges agree with the defence that the jury’s verdict was “unreasonable”, Pell could walk free immediately, although he could face a possible appeal from the state.

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Victorian Bar Association president Matt Collins told AFP it was not common for an appeals court to reverse a jury’s verdict but “nor is it rare or unheard of”.

– Retrial or appeal? –

Two so-called “fallback” arguments for Pell relate to alleged procedural errors during his trial.

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His lawyers argued they should have been allowed to show an animated reconstruction of people’s movements in the cathedral on the days of the assaults.

They also took issue with the fact that Pell was not arraigned in the presence of the jury. The process was completed via video link so the large pool of potential jurors was able to watch.

If the appeal judges — Chief Justice Anne Ferguson, Court of Appeal president Chris Maxwell and Justice Mark Weinberg — agree on either of these points they may decide to order another trial.

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That would leave open the door for Pell — who has already faced two juries after his first trial in 2018 ended in a hung jury — to argue he would not receive a fair trial third time around.

Finally, the judges could dismiss Pell’s appeal entirely. If that happens, he will have to return to prison to continue serving his six-year sentence.

But he would still be able to challenge the decision in Australia’s High Court, the country’s final court of appeal.

Collins said there was “no doubt” Pell’s legal team would consider this option, with an application for leave to appeal required to be filed within weeks and a decision on whether to hear the appeal usually made within a matter of months.

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‘A coward and a commander’: New Lincoln Project ad contrasts Trump with James Mattis

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On Friday, the conservative anti-Trump group The Lincoln Project released a new attack ad against President Donald Trump — this time using the criticism of his former Defense Secretary James Mattis, and comparing and contrasting their leadership ability.

"This is the story of a coward and a commander," said the ad's narrator. "The coward Trump dodged the draft. Jim Mattis led American troops for forty years. While a frightened Trump hides from protesters in a deep bunker firing off tweets, Jim Mattis does what he's always done: Leads. While Donald Trump angrily attacks, General Mattis' words deserve to be heard by every American."

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NFL Commissioner Goodell apologizes for league’s indifference to players’ protests against racism

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On Friday, CNN reported that National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell is acknowledging his organization turned a blind eye when his athletes took a knee to protest racism and police violence, and issued a formal apology.

"We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest," Goodell said in a newly released Instagram video. "It has been a difficult time for our country. In particular, black people in our country. First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all the families who have endured police brutality."

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Earth Has Hottest May on Record

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"This is unquestionably an alarming sign."

The Earth just experienced its hottest May on record, scientists said Friday—just a day after it was announced that atmospheric CO2 levels hit a new high.

Scientists at Europe's Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) announced the temperature record Friday. The agency said that globally, last month 0.63°C warmer than the 1981-2020 average for May. That tops the previous warmest May, which occurred in 2016, by 0.05°C.

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