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Catholic Cardinal George Pell says his conviction should be 'quashed'

By Clyde Hughes
Catholic Cardinal George Pell says his conviction should be 'quashed'
Australian Cardinal George Pell attended a hearing Wednesday, when his attorneys appealed accusations of sex assault.  File Photo by Massimo Percossi/EPA

June 5 (UPI) -- An attorney for disgraced Roman Catholic Cardinal George Pell argued before an Australian appellate court Wednesday that the church figure could not have been guilty in a sexual assault case involving two choir boys in 1996.

A jury convicted Pell, 77, in the case last December on four counts of indecent acts on a child under the age of 16, and one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 16. He was sentenced in March to six years in prison, becoming the most senior Catholic official to be imprisoned for sex crimes against a child.

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Pell and his defense argued Wednesday that even if the jury believed victim testimony, other accounts raise strong reasonable doubt because they place Pell away from the priests' sacristy where the victims say the acts occurred.

"The verdicts represent a disturbing failure of our jury system," Pell said in a document submitted to the court. "The verdicts should be quashed."

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Attorney Bret Walker said witness testimony made it "impossible, or simply not a realistic possibility" for Pell to have assaulted the youths. He said a second incident should be dismissed because the victims gave conflicting statements about it.

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Prosecutors argued in a written document to the court that the victims' account was credible and believable, partly because of the accusers' ability to recall specific detail about the inside of the priests' sacristy.

"The ability of the complainant to so accurately describe the layout and wood paneling of the priests' sacristy (including the alcove) -- an area in which he could not recall having ever seen either before or after this event -- was a significant aspect of the Crown case," prosecutors argued.

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"It bespoke both truthfulness and reliability. Any inconsistencies in the complainant's evidence were of little moment and could not have been said to have impacted on his credibility in any material way."

Appeals testimony is expected to continue Thursday, when judges could make a ruling.

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