Kentucky Justices Overturn Priest's Abuse Conviction
The Courier-Journal [Kentucky]
May 24, 2007
The Kentucky Supreme Court today overturned the conviction of a former Roman Catholic priest who was convicted in 2003 of sexually abusing two Bullitt County boys.
Daniel C. Clark has served nearly four years of a 10-year sentence for his conviction on two counts of first-degree sexual abuse of the two boys.
In a 5-2 decision, the court ordered the case remanded to Bullitt Circuit Court for a new trial.
Clark contended in his appeal that he deserved a new trial, claiming the trial judge gave improper jury instructions, allowed testimony that he should have excluded and excluded evidence that he should have allowed.
Chief Justice Joseph E. Lambert and justices John D. Minton Jr., William E. McAnulty Jr., Mary C. Noble and Wil Schroder concurred with the decision. Justices Will T. Scott and Bill Cunningham dissented.
The Supreme Court agreed with two of Clark's arguments.
The court said Bullitt Circuit Judge Thomas Waller's instructions to the jury were "seriously flawed" because he did not give the jury the option of considering a charge of second-degree sexual abuse on the older boy, who turned 12 years old during the time the alleged sexual abuse took place. The type of abuse Clark is accused of is considered second-degree sexual abuse on children 12 and younger.
The court also said Waller erred in allowing a previous victim of Clark, whose case led to an earlier conviction of the priest, to testify in this trial. The court said allowing this testimony was "prejudicial."
The court disagreed with Clark's contention that the trial judge improperly kept out a videotape of the alleged victims being interviewed.
Clark, 59, who was removed from the priesthood in 2004, was one of the clerics at the center of the sexual-abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Louisville. Of four priests in the archdiocese who were convicted, Clark was the only one to bring an appeal to the state's highest court.
Clark was accused in 19 lawsuits against the archdiocese — including one filed by the Bullitt County boys' mother on their behalf. The archdiocese eventually settled all the cases.
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Reporter Peter Smith can be reached at (502) 582-4469.
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