PORTLAND, Ore. -- Church of Scientology lawyers say they will seek a mistrial in a lawsuit that resulted in a $39 million fraud judgment they claim is part of a conspiracy to dismantle the church.
'This wouldn't be happening if we were dealing with a 2,000-year-old religion,' Boston trial lawyer Earle Cooley said Thursday. 'If this were anything other than a 35-year-old new religion, then we wouldn't be here.
'We are dealing with with a situtation where a religion has been targeted by a group of individuals who are attempting to destroy it. If they can target Scientology today, they can target others tomorrow.'
Cooley and his law partner, Harry Manion, told a news conference they had uncovered evidence that jurors in the case had been prejudiced during their deliberations by telephone calls from people claiming to be Scientologists.
'The calls came from people professing to be Scientologists,' Manion said. 'Had we known about them, we would have immediately moved for a mistrial.'
They also said the jurors misconstrued the judge's instructions in the case and were allowed to hear improper closing arguments from lawyers representing Julie Titchbourne, an ex-Scientologist who won the $39 million award.
The motion for a mistrial will be filed with Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Ronald H. Londer, who has not signed the judgment.
Cooley said the church does not intend to pa9 any of the settlement and will appeal the case to the Supreme Court if necessary.
The lawyers spoke while about 3,000 Scientologists, led by show business personalities, paraded through the Portland streets for a sixth day on a 'crusade for religous freedom.'
Actress Karen Black and rock musician Edgar Winter joined the protest Thursday night at a concert in a city park across the street from the courthouse.
The Rev. Ken Hoden, leader of the Church of Scientology of Los Angeles, said the demonstrations would likely continue through the Memorial Day weekend and could be extended until Londer rules on the church motions.
Titchbourne, 27, left the church in 1976 and then brought ruit claiming she was defrauded when she signed up for $3,000 worth of Scientology courses that were supposed to improve her eyesight and her study habits.
The Church of Scientology was founded in 1955 by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer who dropped from sight in 1980. The church now has 5 million members worldwide.