Jury in LA Priest Sex Abuse Trial Seeks Reading of Testimony

By Linda Deutsch
North County Times
February 11, 2006

LOS ANGELES -- Jurors in a molestation case against a retired Roman Catholic priest ended their first day of deliberations Friday with a request to hear a readback of testimony from the trial's key witness.

According to the court, the panel asked for a reading of a limited portion of the testimony of the 26-year-old man who claims he was molested by Michael Wempe in the 1990s. The alleged victim is known as Jayson B.

The matter will be taken up with lawyers when the jurors return from a long weekend. Monday is a court holiday and the panel does not resume its talks until Tuesday afternoon because of a juror's previously scheduled medical appointment in the morning.

The case was submitted to jurors by Superior Court Judge Curtis Rappe on Friday morning. He spent about a half hour reading to them legal instructions dealing with the charges against Wempe and with the evidence of uncharged crimes presented during the trial.

Eight men were permitted to tell jurors about their own molestations by Wempe during the 1970s and 80s, acts which the priest acknowledges. However, he cannot be tried for those crimes because of a statute of limitations.

The five charges against him in the current case involve only Jayson B. The impact of the past crimes on the jurors' consideration of the case was addressed in a specific legal instruction.

"If you conclude that the defendant committed the uncharged offenses," the instruction said, "that conclusion is only one factor to consider along with all the other evidence. It is not sufficient by itself to prove that the defendant is guilty of the crimes charged. The people must still prove each element of every charge beyond a reasonable doubt."


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