KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Missouri judge will try the criminal case against the highest-ranking Catholic official in the U.S. to be charged with shielding an abusive priest, three weeks before it was to go before a jury.
Bishop Robert Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are charged with one count of failing to report suspected child abuse to the state.
Their trial was scheduled to start Sept. 24 in a case that carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Instead, a set of stipulated facts negotiated by both sides will be presented Thursday afternoon to Judge John M. Torrence.
This has a distinct deja vu feel to it.
The need to see blood – in this particular case actual blood – is nearly overwhelming. Finn, or more likely his attorneys, understood that and decided the denouement should play out behind closed doors.
Jury trials are the standard. After all, you only have to sway one individual. Bench trials are usually reserved for red light camera cases, civil squabbles, and certain juvenile offenses.
No irony there.
Usually a written request to the court is necessary for a bench trial to be granted. In theory, after the court reviews the case, it will then determine whether such a trial is appropriate.
In theory, if the court believes a bench trial will create an advantage for the accused, the request will be denied, and a jury trial will be scheduled.
Finn’s attorney’s will argue the Missouri state law mandating someone in Finn’s position report suspected child abuse is unconstitutional. So we understand why a bench trial may seem preferable to a jury trial; who wants the unwashed deciding what plain English really means? Better it should be decided behind closed doors amongst like minded gentlemen, n’est-ce pas?
A verdict is expected by the end of today. 1
UPDATE: Live twittering by the press.
- There’s some high stakes poker going on here; Ms Baker is mortgaging her political future with this move; Finn has thrown his ‘immortal soul’ into the pot – should he be found guilty the Pope excommunicates him and he’s forced to diminish and live among the laity…if they’ll have him. ↩
- We suspect Judge John M. Torrence only plays at being catholic; from what we understand a true catholic would have burned Finn at the stake. But probation? And suspended at that? Can’t figure it. Unless, you know, the judge and the priest have similar interests… Frankly, both these ‘gentlemen’ should be tarred, feathered and rode out of town on a splintery rail. If not worse. ↩