Religion

Were Will Lynch Jurors Correct to Ignore Law?

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Will Lynch admitted -- in court and under oath -- to beating a priest who, he says, molested him in 1975. But Santa Clara County, Calif. jurors overlooked this admission and found Lynch not guilty in a sensational trial that pitted sexual abuse victims against the Catholic church and its decades-long cover-up of clergy abuse.

Lynch was accused of assaulting Father Jerold Lindner in a Los Gatos, Calif. retirement home in 2010. Lynch has maintained that Lindner brutally raped him as a seven-year-old boy in 1975. Lynch assaulted the priest 35 years after the fact.

"I was wrong for doing what I did -- in doing that I perpetuated the cycle of violence," Lynch said outside the courtroom. "But if there is anything I want people [who have been molested] to take away from this -- it is you can come forward, you can seek justice and you can find justice in many forms."

According to the Mercury News, defense lawyers in California cannot ask a jury to "nullify," which is a legal term for ignoring evidence of guilt because a conviction is seen as unfair. Yet, in closing arguments to the jury, Lynch's attorney Pat Harris said: the prosecution had  "overcharged the case" by filing felony charges."There is a defense to that 'overzealous' decision by the prosecution," Harris had said -- "you," looking at the jurors.

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This judge looked an inmate square in the eyes and did something that left the entire courtroom in tears:

The argument apparently worked.

The Mercury News says: One juror called the rape of Lynch and his brother "heinous, absolutely heinous." Despite the judge's admonitions, "(the alleged assault) was a tough thing to disregard," said the juror, a retired Silicon Valley accountant. "It played a big role in our decision." The juror was one of the eight who voted to convict Lynch for misdemeanor assault. Lindner testified last month about what he called a "vicious" and painful attack, but the juror said his account was not a factor in their vote. Judge David A. Cena had instructed the jury to ignore Lindner's testimony, including his denial of the alleged molestation, after the Jesuit refused to answer any more questions on the grounds it might incriminate him.

In a recent interview (video below), Lynch of San Francisco said that he was looking forward to facing his alleged sexual abuser in court.

Lynch told the San Jose Mercury News: "I've always wanted the opportunity to bring the truth into the light. I did [it] for compelling reasons. There's a system here that's broken. I did everything I could do under the law. Where does my moral obligation to myself, to society... supersede the law of the land and his rights?"

Lynch claims that he suffered the abuse in 1975 during a religious camping trip in the Santa Cruz Mountains. According to the Daily Mail, Lynch said that Father Lindner cornered him in his tent and forced him to perform a sex act on him.

Father Lindner then allegedly dragged Lynch to his own tent, where he raped Lynch and forced him to commit a sex act on his younger sibling.

Father Lindner was never prosecuted as the statute of limitations had passed before the two men pressed charges.

However, Lynch and his brother sued their former church and each received a $187,000 settlement.

Lynch looks forward to his trial, saying: "'For the first time in my life I have a voice. 'I'm empowered. I'm kind of in control of my destiny and that's all I've ever wanted."