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Green Bay Diocese Could Face Punitive Damages

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Photo: Video by nbc26.com

Green Bay Diocese Could Face Punitive Damages

By Kasey Hott. CREATED May 22, 2012

GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Diocese heads back to court Wednesday to see if they have to pay even more money as a punishment for committing fraud.

The case stems from former priest John Patrick Feeney and his sexual abuse of the Merryfield brothers in the 1970s. A jury sided with the brothers on Monday. Now, the Diocese could be forced to pay punitive damages. It will be up to a jury to decide whether those damages should be awarded.

"Punitive damages are damages for punishment. They aren't for compensation. The reason the case was split into two is because the jury has to make certain findings before punitive damages becomes an issue," said attorney Bruce Bachhuber.

Now that the jury has made those findings, the judge and jury will hear additional evidence to determine if money should be awarded.. and how much.

"Whether punitive damages will be awarded at all is completely within the discretion of the jury. Even if the evidence is strong, they could say, 'Nope, that's not enough.' If the evidence is weak, they could still say it's enough," said Bachhuber.

It's a decision the Diocese hopes jurors will not take lightly.

"I'm hoping the punitive action doesn't end up punishing the church of today for things that happened 40 years ago," said Deacon Tim Reilly.

The second phase of the trial begins Wednesday morning. It's expected to only last a few hours.