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Jury eyes case of man accused of beating priest

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POSTED July 3, 2012 8:52 p.m.


SAN JOSE  (AP) — Supporters and family members of a man charged with assaulting a priest he says molested him decades ago resumed their daily lunch-time demonstrations Tuesday outside a California courthouse where jurors were trying to reach a verdict in the case.

The parents of defendant William Lynch spent the noon hour carrying picket signs with several other protesters, some of whom also claim to be victims of abuse by priests and have attended every day of the trial that began June 21.

"I'm nervous," Peggy Lynch said as the jury began its second day of deliberations in the case against her son.

William Lynch, 44, is accused of pummeling Jerold Lindner with his fists on May 10, 2010, in what prosecutors called a vigilante attack.

Lynch testified during the trial that he only wanted the priest to sign a confession and punched him after experiencing an irrational fear triggered by memories of the alleged abuse in a tent on a 1975 camping trip.

Lynch is charged with felony assault and elder abuse. Lindner was 65 at the time, the minimum age for a victim of the abuse offense.

In her closing argument, prosecutor Vicki Gemetti implored the jury not to be swayed by Lynch's dramatic testimony describing a horrific ordeal he claims to have endured at the hands of Lindner.

Gemetti also pointed out that Lynch put on gloves before entering Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, and that he told Lindner to take off his glasses before striking him.

The Catholic Church paid $625,000 to settle a lawsuit involving the abuse claim by Lynch..

Lindner also took the witness stand and denied abusing Lynch. Proceedings ended for the day a short time later.

The next day, Lindner's attorney notified the court that his client was invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and would not testify further for fear of a perjury prosecution.

The judge ordered Lindner's previous testimony stricken from the trial record and told jurors to ignore what the former priest had said.

Prosecutors accused defense attorney Pat Harris of urging jurors during his closing argument to use their power of "nullification" to acquit Lynch. Jurors are allowed to acquit defendants they believe to be technically guilty but don't deserve punishment.

However, defense attorneys are not allowed to argue for that verdict, and Gemetti objected when Harris began telling jurors they have the power to keep overzealous prosecutors in check.


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