Attorneys Try to Win over Jury As Michael Kelly Civil Trial Closes

By Ross Farrow
Lodi News-Sentinel
April 6, 2012

The jury in the Michael Kelly clergy abuse trial received conflicting messages as attorneys gave their closing arguments in a case that has lasted more than a month.

Attorney John Manly, representing a 37-year-old man accusing Kelly of sexual assault, painted the Lockeford priest as a pedophile and blatant liar who has an unsavory interest in children.


Attorney Jim Goodman, representing the Stockton Diocese, and Tom Beatty, representing Kelly, told the jury that the plaintiff has not borne the burden of proof that Kelly sexually assaulted the plaintiff or anyone else.

Closing arguments, which lasted all day Thursday, will continue today. The case is likely to go to the jury this afternoon and continue on Monday. Jurors will meet until a verdict is reached.

Because it is a civil trial rather than criminal, either side needs only nine votes from the 12 jurors to win the case. Criminal trials require a unanimous vote from the jury to get a conviction.

Kelly, the priest at St. Joachim's Catholic Church in Lockeford for the past eight years, was sued by a 37-year-old man who says that Kelly sexually assaulted him when the plaintiff was about 10 years old and an altar boy at Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton. Kelly has not been criminally charged in the case.

The plaintiff's identity is being withheld by a court order because he is potentially a sexual assault victim.

In his closing argument before a packed courtroom with about 50 spectators, Goodman told jurors that Kelly should be exonerated from the allegations.

"Father Kelly has been accused of horrible criminal conduct based on repressed memory," Goodman told jurors. "Please put yourself in Father Kelly's position how would an innocent person who hasn't raped anyone respond?"

The plaintiff is using repressed, or recovered, memory to back up his allegations against Kelly. The former altar boy says he didn't remember Kelly's alleged sexual assault for more than 20 years, until 2006.

Manly acknowledged it's difficult to prove sexual assault.

"Most sexual abuse happens behind closed doors without witnesses," Manly said.

Therefore, he said, the jury must weigh Kelly's trustworthiness when determining whether he actually committed sexual assault. Manly didn't mince words while attacking Kelly's character.

"He's lying to you. He's lying about a lot of things," Manly said.

He added that Kelly is also a pedophile who committed sexual assault.

Attorneys from both sides gave jurors their thoughts about the merits of different psychologists and psychiatrists who testified in the case, which lasted more than a month.

Dr. J. Alexander Bodkin, an associate professor at Harvard University's medical school, testified that the plaintiff suffers from severe depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, not recovered or repressed memory, Goodman told jurors.

"Dr. Bodkin is an expert in recovered memory," Goodman added.

Goodman also reminded the jury about last week's testimony by Dr. Anlee Kuo, a San Francisco psychologist who said that false memories can occur in some cases, but not others."He is not making this up," Manly said regarding the plaintiff. "It is not a false memory."

"Dr. Kuo told you (recovered memory is) not controversial," Manly told the jury. "It's rare, but it happens, and it happened here."

Closing arguments will continue this morning.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at








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