The trial against Paul Shanley, a 73-year-old defrocked Catholic priest facing three counts of child rape and two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child, begins tomorrow. These charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison. Shanley remains one of the only priests in the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston indicted in the abuse scandal uncovered in 2002. With many of the allegations centering around events which took place decades before, legal experts are predicting a difficult case for prosecutors, reports The Washington Post.
In addition, only one of the original four alleged victims will testify against Shanley, a third accuser having been formally dropped from the case last week. Jury selection has further complicated the suit as many potential jurors struggle with impartiality. “It’s what we’ve all experienced over the last three years,” a prospective juror told Superior Court Judge Stephen Neel. “I have this slant now where I just look at the archdiocese and I shake my head,” reports The Boston Globe. Despite these difficulties, a jury of eight women and eight men was settled upon on Thursday.
Victims’ advocates remain hopeful, viewing an acquittal as devastating. According to the The Washington Post, David Clohessy, national director of the Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests, stated, “If Shanley walks, it will cause already deeply wounded victims, who mustered the strength to come forward, to feel hopeless.”