Superior Court Orders New Trial for Monsignor William Lynn

In its decision, the court cited the admission of the "Secret Archive" as grounds for tossing out Lynn's conviction.

In this Jan. 6, 2014 file photo, Monsignor William Lynn walks from the criminal justice center in Philadelphia. The landmark conviction of the Roman Catholic church official imprisoned over his handling of abuse complaints in Philadelphia has been overturned for the second time. A Superior Court ruling, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 awarded Lynn a new trial.

In this Jan. 6, 2014 file photo, Monsignor William Lynn walks from the criminal justice center in Philadelphia.

Msgr. William Lynn, the highest-ranking Catholic Church official to be convicted of endangering the welfare of children by allowing sexual abuse by priests to continue unchecked, will get a new trial under a ruling issued by the state Superior Court today.

In a 43-page opinion for the court majority, President Judge Emeritus John T. Bender wrote that by allowing the admission of the “Secret Archive,” a trove of previously unreleased records documenting child sexual abuse by Catholic priests over the years, the prosecution in the original Lynn trial prejudiced the jury against the defendant and that the judge’s instructions to the jury did not remove the prejudice.

The evidence presented from the archive took up 25 of the trial’s 32 days and included acts that took place decades before Lynn became secretary of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Bender’s opinion states that much of the evidence presented failed to prove that Lynn placed protecting the Archdiocese’s reputation above protecting the welfare of the children, and that its sheer volume served to prejudice the jury against Lynn.

“This was an issue we raised early on in our brief to the Superior Court,” said Thomas J. Bergstrom, Lynn’s attorney. “But it was one we didn’t have to rely on the first time because the court threw out the verdict on other grounds, but then the Supreme Court handed the case back to them this summer.

“I think it’s the right decision. It’s consistent with the law and the facts, and I’m glad they ruled our way. Now the ball is in the District Attorney’s court as to how to proceed.”

The office of District Attorney Seth Williams has not yet determined whether it will appeal the Superior Court ruling.

Lynn has served about two years of a three- to six-year sentence at a state correctional facility outside Scranton. “As he’s no longer a convicted or sentenced felon, I’m sure they’ll want to get him out of there right away,” said Bergstrom. “I’ll have to come up with bail.”

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