|Juror: ‘A Ton of Reasonable Doubt" LED to Verdict
By Anne Jungen
La Crosse Tribune
October 28, 2010
Jurors "just didn't have enough to convict" a priest accused of sexually assaulting a parishioner who came to him for counseling in August 2009, a member of the panel said Wednesday. "There was a ton of reasonable doubt. That's why we landed where we did," juror Scott Elvin said.
The panel of 11 men and one woman Tuesday deliberated four hours - almost the length of the trial itself - before finding the Rev. Edmund Donkor-Baine, 48, not guilty of misdemeanor fourth-degree sexual assault.
"There wasn't a lot to go on. There weren't a lot of witnesses and there wasn't physical evidence," Elvin said. "We had to base everything on believability of the testimony and the consistency of testimony."
A 48-year-old woman had testified that Donkor-Baine put her hand on his genitals and grabbed her breasts, both through clothing, while they talked inside her vehicle Aug. 20, 2009. She'd sought his support, she said, for her failing marriage and advice on how to handle sexual urges.
Donkor-Baine, a Ghana resident in the U.S. for medical care, denied the assault, testifying she had made several sexual advances toward him. The woman went back to Donkor-Baine on Aug. 20 despite believing he'd been sexually inappropriate at an earlier meeting; she also attended church where he helped deliver Mass the Sunday after the incident.
"At the end of the day, clearly something happened," said a West Salem juror who asked to remain anonymous. "But was there enough evidence to convict? ... No."
Ten jurors considered Donkor-Baine not guilty during the initial vote, the West Salem juror said.
The woman did not come off as credible, Elvin said, and contradicted herself during testimony.
"I think she is a broken woman who has been broken by her husband, by her divorce," the West Salem juror said.
It would have helped had she reported the incident immediately, Elvin said, so a witness "could have corroborated what she had to say."
The woman did report the incident in September to the Diocese of La Crosse, but it found no evidence to support her claim.
"We have processes in place in the church and in the civil system to ensure that justice is done. It seems that was the case in this instance," said Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki, who was bishop in La Crosse when the woman reported the incident.
The La Crosse Diocese released a statement late Wednesday: "We are happy and grateful that this matter has been appropriately addressed and brought to closure through the criminal justice system.
"The unanimous verdict of ‘not guilty' ... is consistent with the judgement of the Diocese than Father Edmund Donkor-Baine was innocent of the charges."
The woman was contacted for comment, but as of late Wednesday had not sent a response.
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