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Philadelphia Priest Trial Jury Finishes Seventh Day Of Deliberations

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Monsignor William Lynn awaits a verdict after seven days of jury deliberations in the Philadelphia priest sexual abuse trial.
Monsignor William Lynn awaits a verdict after seven days of jury deliberations in the Philadelphia priest sexual abuse trial.

PHILADELPHIA — Frustration erupted Tuesday in a landmark priest-abuse case.

As jurors failed to reach a verdict for a seventh day, a defense lawyer raged over their demands and a lone juror appeared distraught.

Jurors are pondering the fate of accused Roman Catholic priest James Brennan and the monsignor who supervised him. They have the day off Wednesday and return to resume deliberations Thursday in the Philadelphia courtroom.

The jury's frequent requests to re-hear testimony or get help interpreting the law led defense lawyer William Brennan to explode. Brennan is no relation to his client James Brennan.

"Sometimes, you have to say to them with that big black robe, `Do your job!'" Brennan told Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina. "They have to rely on their recollections. We can't do their jobs."

The jury has asked to re-hear long sections of testimony from key players in the three-month trial. The defense lost a pitched battle Tuesday when Sarmina agreed to let the jury hear testimony from a church trial that was in evidence but had not been aired in court.

"How many times are we going to try this case?" veteran trial lawyer William Brennan demanded.

Brennan, who was cited for contempt last month over a particularly heated objection, later slammed his cellphone against a wall in the hallway.

James Brennan, 48, is on trial with Monsignor William Lynn, who served as secretary for clergy at the Philadelphia archdiocese from 1992 to 2004. Lynn, 61, is the first U.S. church official to be charged for his handling of clergy abuse complaints.

Brennan is charged with attempted rape and child endangerment. Lynn is charged with conspiracy and two counts of child endangerment, for allegedly endangering Brennan's accuser and a victim of defrocked priest Edward Avery, who pleaded guilty days before trial.

In a pivotal pretrial decision, Sarmina allowed prosecutors to put on evidence of how Lynn handled accusations against 20 uncharged priests, to show a pattern of behavior. That so-called "404B" evidence included compelling testimony from more than a dozen alleged victims, and took up most of the 10-week trial. But it's tangential to the charges being weighed by the jury.

The jury Tuesday asked to re-hear much of the direct evidence involving Brennan and Avery, including the lengthy testimony of both accusers.

"They basically want to see the entire non-404B case retried," William Brennan complained.

It's not clear Sarmina will allow it when the trial resumes Thursday, after the break because of a juror's prior commitment. The trial began March 26. Deliberations have been under way since June 1.

The case has offered a rare glimpse of the inner workings of the Catholic church, and detailed the hundreds of child sex-abuse complaints and other secrets long held in locked archives at the Philadelphia archdiocese.

The jury of seven men and five women were unusually attentive during the testimony, but there are signs they are wearing down. One woman has been emotionally distraught during the group's frequent visits to the courtroom to ask questions. Others seem tired during the long read-backs. The panel includes a federal court employee, a gospel singer and a doctoral student.

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