Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Judicial Overreach State Supreme Court Undercuts Grand Jury Process

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Judicial Overreach State Supreme Court Undercuts Grand Jury Process

Article excerpt

The state Supreme Court has finally explained its decision last week to delay the release of a grand jury's report on the sexual abuse of children in six Catholic dioceses. In part, the court wants to give the law establishing grand juries the once-over.

It wants to review criticism the grand jury included about an unknown number of individuals, determine whether they had ample opportunity to defend themselves and, if it concludes their due-process rights were violated, presumably rule on whether those folks should be kept out of a report that's now hundreds of pages long.

The court gave no timetable for vetting the report, and Supreme Court justices aren't known for burning the midnight oil, so anguished victims who have long waited to tell their stories will just have to keep biding their time.

The court didn't even promise to release what's left of the report when it's completed any slicing and dicing it deems necessary. This isn't the kind of ruling that boosts public trust in the judiciary. But it is precisely the kind of ruling that emasculates grand juries.

The 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury spent about 22 months probing reports of child sexual abuse by priests in thePittsburgh, Greensburg, Allentown, Erie, Harrisburg and Scranton dioceses. Earlier this month, as the report was about to be released, an unknown number of people filed secret motions with Cambria County President JudgeNorman A. Krumenacker III and asked to give testimony to the grand jury in the hope of talking the panel out of criticizing them.

We still don't know who they are. They could be priests. They might be church officials and civil authorities whom the grand jury believes should have done more to investigate reports of abuse going back decades. Grand juries can criticize even if they don't indict, and the petitioners fear for their reputations. …

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