Newsreader: And now we’re taking a closer look at the turnabout in a high profile case of alleged sex abuse by a priest. As you know, charges against Father Robert Brennan were dropped this week after his accuser died. The 26 year old former altar boy died of a drug overdose last week. Now, district attorney Seth Williams dropped the charges against Brennan who you see in the photo on the left there on Wednesday and that action sparked a lot of controversy. So a lot of people are asking “Is there any way the trial could have still gone forward after the alleged victims’ death?” Defense attorney Enrique Latoison joins us now. He’s live in our Digital Operations Center. Enrique, how about it? Could this trial still have taken place?
Enrique Latoison: Well, I mean it depends. I mean, when you have a person who testifies, and in this particular case the victim was never able to testify at the preliminary hearing so the defense did not have opportunity, a full face opportunity to cross-examine that witness. So if the defense doesn’t have the opportunity to cross-examine that witness and then the witness were to be deceased in this particular case, then the defense would be prejudiced and therefore you couldn’t move forward. However, if there had been a preliminary hearing or some sort of testimony under oath, and then the defense had had opportunity to cross-examine that witness and then the victim would have been deceased, the prosecution could have then still used that testimony to proceed forward; to continue the trial.
Newsreader: What if the alleged victim had been deposed on video tape or audio tape? Could that testimony have been used to proceed with the trial?
Enrique Latoison: Well once again the key is you only have one side of the story at this point. You never had an opportunity for the defense who is innocent until proven guilty, never had the opportunity to cross-examine that witness. So until you have the opportunity to cross-examine that witness under oath, you cannot then take that testimony after the person’s deceased and used that to prosecute in this case. Now, had it occurred after the preliminary hearing, had the victim died, then they could have used that testimony at trial.
Newsreader: And you know, this whole Father Brennan story has raised a lot of questions about statute of limitations. He has been accused over the years of inappropriately touching or molesting more than twenty boys when he was involved in the Catholic Churches in the Philadelphia area. A lot of those charges couldn’t be made because the statute of limitations had expired. What about this case involving this latest victim? How does the statute of limitations apply to that?
Enrique Latoison: Well the statute of limitations is actually very complicated. The key is when you turn 18. The legislation when they were passing these laws for the statute of limitations with child abuse took into account that children when they’re children are not able to really speak or come forward. So they said “Well we will start the time when you turn 18.” So if you turned 18 before August 2002 you have twelve years. So if you do the math, there is a group of people come August of 2014, their statute of limitations is going to expire also. However, if you turn 18 after August 2002, you have until your 50th birthday. Once the Catholic Church scandal came out they re-did the law and now you have up to your 50th birthday after August 2002 if you turn 18.
Newsreader: Alright, Enrique Latoison in our Digital Operations Center, thank you for helping us navigate our way through this complicated case.
Enrique Latoison: Thank you, Chris. Have a good day.