Judge Rejects Archdiocese Suggestion of Impropriety
By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer [Cincinnati OH]
Downloaded November 14, 2003
A judge ruled Thursday that prosecutors did nothing wrong when they selected a special grand jury to investigate how the Archdiocese of Cincinnati handled sexual abuse cases.
Church lawyers challenged the selection process Wednesday when they asked Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Steven Martin to review transcripts of the secret proceedings for any improprieties.
The lawyers said they were concerned about how prosecutors questioned prospective grand jurors about their ability to serve.
Martin said such questions are part of the grand jury selection process and are necessary to ensure that jurors are able to be fair. He noted that one of the two jurors excused Wednesday was let go because he could not be fair to the archdiocese, not the other way around.
After reading transcripts Thursday, the judge said he found no problems with the proceedings.
"I am satisfied there is no unfairness and no impropriety of any kind," Martin said. "The grand jury has been fairly selected."
Church lawyers accepted the judge's decision without objection. "We just wanted to be sure the law is followed," said archdiocese attorney Tom Miller.
The ruling clears the way for prosecutors to convene the 14 grand jurors for the first time Monday. The group is expected to study evidence, review church records and listen to testimony related to sexual abuse cases for the next several months.
A previous grand jury indicted two priests on criminal charges. The new grand jury is expected to focus on those who supervised abusive priests.
The dispute over the grand jury's selection arose Wednesday afternoon, just hours after Martin swore in 46 prospective jurors.
Because grand jury proceedings are secret, the selection process takes place without input from the lawyers representing potential defendants.
Church lawyers told Martin they were concerned about how fair prosecutors would be in a closed setting. But when the judge suggested opening the entire process to the public, church lawyers balked. They said the process is intended to be secret and should remain so.
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