Hung Jury Looks Likely in Priest Molestation Trial

By Itica Milanes
ABC 30 [Fresno CA]
December 19, 2006

Another day without a decision from the jury in the sexual abuse trial of a Fresno priest and there are more signs the case could end in a hung jury.

For the second straight day, jurors said they are stuck on the second question of four, which is "Did Fresno's Catholic Diocese know about the alleged abuse?" Jurors say they've voted at least 10 times, but can't get the 9 "yes" votes needed to move on to the next question.

Jurors can't seem to agree on whether Fresno's Catholic Diocese knew about the alleged sexual abuse. The question is crucial. If they can't agree the case is over.

ABC-30 Legal Analyst, Tony Capozzi, says, "The Diocese is on trial here, not the priest. If they can't prove the Diocese knew, the case is over."

On Monday, jurors answered yes to the first question - did Father Eric Swearingen commit sexual abuse. Army Staff Sergeant Juan Rocha, says the priest molested him twice 20 years ago while spending the night with him at two church rectories. The priest admits Rocha stayed with him at the rectories, but says nothing happened. ABC 30 Legal Analyst Tony Capozzi says there's a reason Rocha is suing not only Father Swearingen, but the Fresno Catholic Diocese as well. He says, "The plaintiff is looking for deep pockets."

Capozzi believes the fact that jurors can't seem to come to a consensus clearly indicates that this case is headed toward a hung jury, and trying the case again would simply be too expensive.


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