Special Grand Jury for Clergy Abuse Cases

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer [Cincinnati OH]
November 11, 2003

A special grand jury will be sworn in this week to investigate how officials at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati responded to allegations of sexual abuse involving Catholic priests.

Hamilton County prosecutors, who received permission in September to convene the grand jury, will have up to four months to present evidence and testimony to the jurors.

A pool of prospective jurors is scheduled to be sworn in Wednesday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. The jury could begin work a few days later.

The new grand jury is part of an investigation that began more than a year ago, when clergy abuse scandals erupted in Cincinnati and other cities across the country.

A previous grand jury investigation resulted in indictments against two priests, but the new grand jury is expected to focus more on church officials who supervised abusive priests than on the priests themselves.

The grand jury's job is to determine whether there is enough evidence to support criminal charges against one or more suspects.

Grand jury proceedings are secret and Prosecutor Mike Allen declined comment Monday. But he has said the clergy abuse investigation is ongoing and that prosecutors are examining the behavior of priests as well as their supervisors.

Church officials would not say Monday whether anyone at the archdiocese had received a subpoena ordering an appearance before the grand jury

Requests to convene special grand juries are rare, and the last time prosecutors made such a request was to investigate clergy abuse. The special grand jury's term runs for four months.

As the grand jury is sworn in Wednesday, another hearing related to clergy abuse will take place in the Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals, which will hear arguments about whether some disputed church records should be turned over to investigators.

Archdiocese lawyers contend the records are confidential communications between church officials and their attorneys. Prosecutors say the records could be crucial to their investigation of clergy abuse.

Church officials had asked that the Wednesday hearing be closed to the public, but the judges rejected that request Monday.

The judges also told church lawyers to explain why they should not publicly release court documents that have remained sealed since the case began. Allen said all of the documents should be released.

"There's no legitimate reason for any of these documents or arguments to be sealed," Allen said.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.