Shanley Civil, Criminal Trial Dates May Flip-Flop
By Eric Convey and Robin Washington
January 26, 2004
The civil suit involving the Rev. Paul R. Shanley will be flip-flopped with the criminal case against him if a judge grants a request from prosecutors for a mid-spring trial.
While stopping short of asking for a delay in the civil proceedings based on allegations against the priest, Middlesex County District Attorney Martha Coakley told a judge last week that justice would be better served if the criminal case were tried first.
"We feel that the (criminal) case is ready to go to trial," said Emily LaGrassa, a spokeswoman for Coakley.
Prosecutors would like the criminal trial to begin in April or May, LaGrassa said. "We can't control what happens in the civil case. We only hope to get our case moving faster."
Frank Mondano, Shanley's criminal defense attorney, said it was too early to schedule a trial.
"We were supposed to get the production from 19 subpoenas - a volume of records too big for me to carry," Mondano recalled telling the judge. "I don't understand how we can have a meaningful discussion about a trial date if we haven't completed discovery."
A mid-spring schedule for the criminal case would inevitably delay the civil matter.
Shanley is not named in the civil case brought by Gregory Ford. The complaint instead names supervisors and the Archdiocese of Boston. But at its core are allegations that Shanley raped Ford and other boys.
The civil case has been proceeding ahead of the criminal case, in part because it was filed before the one-time Boston street priest was indicted.
The reason for putting criminal cases first lies in the standards of evidence. Because a criminal conviction requires stronger proof than a finding of civil responsibility, any matter proven in a criminal trial would not have to be reproven in civil court.
So if a civil trial followed a criminal trial, alleged victims would not have to retestify except to convince jurors of the extent of damage. Plaintiffs' lawyers would be spared a huge burden.
"In general, it's pretty standard for criminal cases to go first," said Paul Martinak, editor of Boston-based "Lawyers Weekly USA."
"In a lot of cases, if there's a civil case pending and the judge knows there's a criminal case, the judge will stay the civil case until the conclusion of the criminal case," he said.
Martinak added if the civil jury were to exonerate a defendant "it might also give prosecutors some pause as to whether they have the evidence to prove the case."
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