March 11 (UPI) -- Australia's High Court heard an appeal Wednesday from former papal adviser Cardinal George Pell seeking to overturn his convictions of child sex abuse.
The appeal may be the final chance for the 78-year-old, who was the most senior Catholic clergyman to be convicted of sexual abuse, to overturn his six-year prison sentence on five counts related to the sexual abuse of two choirboys in the 1990s while he was Archbishop of Melbourne.
The High Court heard essentially the entirety of Pell's appeal and will decide whether to carry on with the process or throw out the appeal. Judges could also send Pell's case back to the Victoria Court of Appeals to be heard by a three-judge panel.
Wednesday, the High Court will seek to determine whether the Victoria court was correct in its 2-1 decision last year to uphold Pell's convictions. The former archbishop's attorney argues the ruling was invalid, on the grounds that the judges had wrongly put the responsibility on him to prove his innocence.
He also argues the original verdict was unreasonable because it relied heavily on one victim's testimony. Pell's team also says legal errors were committed during the trial.
Pell initially filed to challenge his conviction last September.
One of Pell's purported victims died of a heroin overdose in 2014 without reporting any abuse, and another went to police after the funeral. The first victim's father blames Pell for his son's drug overdose.
Pell's counsel Brett Walker on Wednesday argued the seven High Court justices the lower court misapplied the essential requirement for establishing guilt at trial.
He also cited as a main argument Pell's practice of greeting parishioners after mass as proof that the Cardinal could not have had time to sexually abuse the boys. There is evidence, he said, that Pell was greeting parishioners for at least 10 minutes on the only two dates the crimes could have occurred.
Walker said that alone should have given jurors reasonable doubt at trial and split the judges over whether it was enough to overrule the survivor's testimony.
Walker also cited concern that jurors who saw video testimony of the second victim may have placed disproportionate weight on his testimony, as opposed to considering all of the evidence as a whole.
Pell is currently being held in the maximum-security Barwon Prison, near Geelong in Victoria. He was moved there in January after a drone attempted to photograph him at a different facility in Melbourne.