Catholicism an issue in jury selection

Feb. 29, 2012 at 5:37 PM   |   Comments

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 29 (UPI) -- Potential jurors for a Philadelphia trial involving clerical sexual abuse are being asked if being Catholic would make them less fair, observers said.

What is unclear is whether Catholics would tend to favor the defendants, a priest, an ex-priest and a former diocesan official, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The trial is attracting a lot of attention because Monsignor William Lynn is the first person to face charges not for molesting children but for covering up the actions of others.

One man, a 32-year-old Philadelphia resident, said he was a Catholic and that he could be fair. The man, who works in corporate finance, once lived near a suburban church served by one of the accused priests.

But Common Pleas Judge Theresa Sarmina later dismissed him when he told her he had changed his mind. He called himself "anti-religion," suggesting he would be more likely to favor the prosecution.

Sarmina herself became controversial when she said during a preliminary hearing: "Anybody that doesn't think there is widespread sexual abuse within the Catholic Church is living on another planet." She refused a defense motion to step aside.

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