Attorneys representing a San Francisco man accused of beating a priest at the in May 2010 because the clergyman allegedly sexually assaulted him as a child filed a motion for mistrial Friday afternoon citing prosecutorial misconduct.
The news came after defendant William Lynch's attorneys, Pat Harris and Paul Mones, emerged from a two-hour, closed-door meeting with Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge David Cena, who is presiding over the high-profile trial that began Wednesday.
Harris told reporters his mistrial motion is based on a decision by Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Vicki Gemetti to put assault victim Father Jerold Lindner on the witness stand. Lindner testified under oath that he had not molested the defendant.
However, Lynch alleges the priest raped and sodomized both him and his brother when they were young boys on camping trips in the '70s. In 1998, Lynch reached an out-of-court settlement with the Catholic Church awarding him and his brother $625,000 for sexual molestation.
Gemetti opposed the defense's motion for a mistrial, calling it a "novel legal
theory, unsupported by case law, statute or common sense," and "without
Dozens of reporters waited outside the San Jose Hall of Justice this afternoon for Cena to decide what will happen with the case against Lynch, 44.
Media outlets and legal analysts broadly speculated about what those matters might involve.
On Wednesday, during opening statements, Gemetti said the priest had indeed sexually molested Lynch more than 30 years ago. But then on the witness stand, Lindner denied the accusation.
Legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Steven Clark said the defense is seeking a mistrial as a remedy to Linder committing what appears to be perjury on the stand.
Clark said the other option is for Gemetti to withdraw the case herself because of Lindner's statements. His testimony, if perjured, would have to be stricken, making it unfair to the defense as it didn't have a chance to cross-examine him.
However, the issue now is also whether Lindner is going to take the Fifth Amendment and not testify further due to the possibility he could be subject to criminal prosecution.
"You're allowed, as a witness, to invoke the Fifth Amendment if you believe you could be subject to criminal prosecution for your testimony," Clark explained. "It doesn't mean you're guilty of anything."
Cena now needs to decide how to address both the mistrial motion and Gemetti's response. He also needs to rule if he'll strike Lindner's testimony.
The judge also needs to address fairness issues given that the jurors have heard Lindner's testimony. "Even if they're striking it, how are they not going to consider it?" Clark asked. "It's not trivial kind of testimony. It's the DA's main witness in the case."
A retrial would open up questions regarding double jeopardy. "You can't try somebody twice. That's the general rule," Clark said. "Once the jury is seated, the jeopardy rules apply."
But since the defense is asking that the case be thrown out, Lynch's double jeopardy right is waived. If Cena dismisses the case on his own, then jeopardy would apply, Clark added.
Lindner could agree to continue to testify without perjury worries; the defense could then vigorously cross examine him on whether he molested Lynch, his brother and the other alleged victims who are expected to take the stand.
"I can't imagine why Mr. Lindner would want to testify under those circumstances. It's an awful lot of legal perils by continuing to testify," he said.