Trial Begins in Civil Suit Brought by Andrew Nicastro against the Most Rev. Joseph Maguire and Thomas Dupre
By Buffy Spencer
July 23, 2012
|Andrew F. Nicastro, of Williamstown, listens to lawyers during a Hampden Superior Court hearing last year related to his civil suit against officials of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield for abuse he says he suffered as a child by former Rev. Alfred Graves.|
Jury selection will continue Tuesday in Hampden Superior Court in a civil lawsuit brought by a Williamstown man who claims two former bishops should be held accountable for his childhood abuse by a priest.
The trial is being held before Judge Constance M. Sweeney, who began Monday morning by asking prospective jurors filling the large courtroom a series of questions, which she followed by individual juror questioning at the side of her bench with lawyers for both sides.
Lawyers for the Most Rev. Joseph F. Maguire and the Most Rev. Thomas L. Dupre had unsuccessfully tried to have the case dismissed on the grounds the three-year statute of limitations had expired by the time the suit was filed.
Jury selection was slow going as 59 people raised their hands when Sweeney asked if anyone had any personal or business reason they could not serve as a juror on the trial, which could take nine days or longer.
A total of 20 prospective jurors raised their hands when asked if they had expressed or formed an opinion of this case or this type of case.
By the time all questioning and challenges were over, nine jurors were seated, with the process to begin again Tuesday to select the remaining five.
People who raised their hands during group questioning explained their response at the sidebar questioning and Sweeney determined if they should be excused “for cause,” before lawyers use their challenges.
Sweeney also read the names of people who are on the witness lists of defense or prosecution. The list included Maguire’s name, and when Sweeney read Dupre’s name she said if there is testimony from him it would be through use of a deposition taken earlier, not through in court testimony.
Sweeney said the plaintiff, Nicastro, has the burden of proof, which in a civil suit means he must prove it is more likely than not that the allegation against Maguire and Dupre is true.
She said there is one issue in which the defendants have the burden or proof. That is their position that the statute of limitations ran out in this case.
Maguire, bishop emeritus of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, and Dupre, who resigned suddenly as bishop in 2004 amidst allegations he had molested altar boys in the 1970s, were named in 2009 as defendants in the lawsuit filed by Andrew F. Nicastro.
Nicastro, a former altar boy, alleges he was molested by the former Rev. Alfred Graves between 1982 and 1984 at St. Patrick’s Parish in Williamstown. Graves has since been defrocked.
Nicastro’s suit claims Maguire and Dupre were negligent in their supervision of Graves.
Sweeney told prospective jurors the Roman Catholic Diocese is not a defendant in the case.
Dupre’s retirement came after he was confronted by The Republican with allegations that he molested two boys in the 1970s.
He was later indicted on criminal charges by a grand jury, but the case was dropped because the statute of limitations had passed.
Graves, who has been named as an abuser in other civil actions filed against the diocese, was barred from presenting himself as a priest in the 1990s and defrocked by the Vatican in 2006.
John Stobierski, Nicastro’s lawyer, has said the suit against Dupre is different from any other priest abuse complaint filed in the United States because it involves a defendant who has been accused of child molestation and supervised another accused of the same type of crime.
After a barrage of lawsuits early last decade, the suit is one of the few civil complaints filed since 2005.
The diocese paid out $7.7 million to dozens of claimants in 2004 and agreed to pay another $4.5 million to 59 alleged abuse victims in 2008.
Those costs were offset by an $8.5 million settlement between the diocese and three insurance companies.
Lawyers for the defendants in this case have said Nicastro had declined to participate in the arbitration set up to settle abuse cases.