A Cambridge, Mass., jury resumed deliberating the fate of defrocked gay priest Paul Shanley on Friday, weighing conflicting views regarding the repressed memories his accuser said came to him decades after the sexual abuse allegedly took place. The jurors received the case Thursday afternoon and deliberated for 30 minutes before the judge sent them home for the day. They returned to Middlesex superior court on Friday.
The accuser said his memories of the abuse were repressed for 20 years and then resurfaced when the Boston church abuse scandal broke in 2002. But Shanley's lawyer, Frank Mondano, said in his closing argument Thursday that they were false memories that were planted by a friend, who also had accused Shanley of abuse, and then were exploited by attorneys who filed a lawsuit. "The core facts in this case are just not true," Mondano said.
The man, now a 27-year-old firefighter in a Boston suburb, testified that Shanley began molesting him while he was in the second grade, taking him out of religious education classes for discipline and raping him in the confessional. Mondano said the man contacted personal injury lawyers soon after he allegedly recovered his memories in February 2002. The attorneys filed a suit on his behalf three months later. The man received $500,000 in a settlement with the Boston archdiocese last May.
But prosecutor Lynn Rooney said the man has no reason to lie: "Is this all a lie--for what?" She said the emotion the man displayed when he testified about the abuse showed he wasn't fabricating his claims. The man spent more than 10 hours on the witness stand and broke down and sobbed several times. "The emotions were raw," Rooney said. "They were real. They were reflective of the pain he experienced."
Shanley's defense rested after putting just one witness on the stand. Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist from the University of California, Irvine, testified that her research shows people can wind up convinced that implanted ideas or suggestions are real. "Many people who have false memories have a lot of confidence and have a lot of detail about their memories," Loftus said. "False memories can be held with a lot of emotion."
The trial is one of a handful of criminal cases that prosecutors have been able to bring against priests accused of molesting young parishioners decades ago. Most of the priests accused in the abuse scandal have avoided prosecution because of the statute of limitations. But Shanley moved away from Massachusetts, which under state law stops the clock on the statute of limitations. He was arrested in California in May 2002. Shanley ran a ministry for troubled gay youths in Boston in the 1970s and later helped run a gay resort in Palm Springs, Calif., in the 1990s. Archdiocese personnel records showed that church officials knew that Shanley advocated sex between men and boys, yet continued to transfer him from parish to parish. He was defrocked by the Vatican last year. He faces life in prison if convicted.
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