Still No Verdict in Priest Abuse Case


August 26, 2008

A jury in Burlington completed a second day of deliberations in the priest sex abuse case against Vermont's Roman Catholic Diocese and there is still no verdict.

Jurors are trying to decide how much the diocese should pay in damages to a former altar boy who was abused by a Vermont priest 30 years ago. And it's clear they are having a very tough time agreeing.

The 40-year-old plaintiff claims the diocese should pay him between $2 million and $14 million for the sexual fondling he suffered at the hands of Father Edward Paquette 30 years ago.

Lawyers for the diocese say he deserves only $10,000 to $15,000 for psychological counseling because he didn't complain about any harm until he learned other former altar boys were winning multi-million dollar awards in other states.

But after nearly 14 hours over two days of deliberations, the jury of seven women and five men was unable to reach a decision. They had several questions for the judge including one late Tuesday afternoon asking him to help them to reach a decision about compensatory damages. Judge Matthew Katz told them he could not help them-- it was their job-- and he urged them to continue working.

"So obviously there's significant disagreement in the jury room and they're working very hard to try to come to some kind of consensus on it," said Kurt Hughes, a Vermont lawyer.

Hughes has practiced for more than 20 years in Vermont and has never seen a jury take longer then 7 hours to reach a verdict in a civil case. He says it's impossible to know exactly what is holding them up, but a strong disagreement is most likely.

"And so coming to a consensus when you've got such polarization can be very difficult, but if they're still going at it after 13 hours or so then they're working very hard on it and it's to their credit certainly that they haven't just given up and said we can't make a decision, in which case there would be a mistrial and they'd have to do it all over again," Hughes explained.

The jury was sent home a little after 5 p.m. Tuesday with orders to return Wednesday morning to resume deliberations at 9:30 a.m


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