Philadelphia Criminal Law News

William Lynn Prosecution: Jury to Hear Unproven Allegations?

Monsignor William Lynn is the first church official in the country facing a criminal trial for enabling the sex abuse of young boys. Lynn is not accused of sexually abusing any boys himself, but as the former archdiocesan administrator, he is accused of covering up sexual assaults by priests, allowing them to shuffle around from parish to parish to commit later abuses.

As his trial ramps up, prosecutors are now trying to convince a Philadelphia judge that old and unproven allegations of abuse should be heard by the jury, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The 61-year-old Lynn faces charges of conspiracy and endangerment. He is accused of making several parish reassignments during the 1990s, despite knowing that the priests at issue had committed sex abuse. As a result of the reassignments, the priests were able to continue assaulting new victims, reports the Inquirer.

Usually, in a criminal trial, only evidence that is directly related to the charge can be heard. And even in these cases, the defense and the judge may order that certain testimony be dismissed as “irrelevant,” “unfounded,” or “speculative” out of fear that the evidence would unfairly bias a jury.

But despite the fact that Lynn is on trial for the assignment made in the 1990s, a jury may still be able to hear about assignments and abuse allegedly made in the 1970s.

Prosecutors argued to a judge that a jury should hear this older evidence so that the jury can have context in weighing the charges brought against Lynn, reports the Inquirer. The evidence can help explain Lynn’s motives, knowledge, intent, or a pattern of behavior.

In deciding whether to admit the evidence, the judge in the William Lynn trial will have to weigh the use of the past evidence in explaining Lynn’s motives and intent against the possible bias to the jury of hearing about unrelated allegations.

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