Breaking News: Judge Rules New Trial in Merryfield Case
UPDATE: An Outagamie County judge has ordered a retrial in the civil fraud verdict against the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, which claims a juror was biased against the church.
According to court documents one juror told another she suspected something had happened involving her brother and John Patrick Feeney in the 1950s.
Judge Nancy Krueger's decision states one juror's bias taints the fairness of the entire trial. It is a victory for the Green Bay Catholic Diocese.
"I respect her for making that decision and having the courage to do that," said Deacon Tim Reilly with the Green Bay Diocese
For the Merryfield brothers, it is frustrating turn of events.
"It's clear what the diocese did. It's clear what harm was suffered as a consequence and that they would put the Merryfields through this again is almost unconscionable," said attorney for Troy Merryfield, John Peterson.
Court documents state that this all stems from a conversation juror 2042 had with others in the courthouse parking lot. One juror testified that juror 2042 " looked at me and she says...Do you realize that my brother was molested by feeney in 1958...It's kind of like why would I be chosen or whatever, if my brother was molested in 1958."
Ultimately, the judge found the juror never made the court aware that her brother attended a Catholic elementary school where Feeney was assigned and never mentioned her suspicions of sexual misconduct. The juror also admits she knows the Merryfields.
She told the judge : "I felt so bad that they had to go through that. I knew---it seemed to me that the Merryfield family was a very nice family."
Now there is a second chance for the diocese: "We'll obviously take an approach that is going to be a lot more aggressive than what we did before," said Deacon Reilly..
And the Merryfields prepare to use new evidence that surfaced during the first trial.
"The Merryfields case is stronger now than it was going into the trial in May," said Peterson.
The $700,000 dollar judgement awarded to the Merryfield brothers is on hold until a new decision. It could be a year before the retrial is scheduled.
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Catholic Diocese is asking for a new trial in a civil fraud case filed in Outagamie County.
Late last month, a jury found the Diocese guilty of covering up child sex abuse by former priest John Patrick Feeney. Brothers Todd and Troy Merryfield say the church knew that Feeney had a history of sexual abuse before he sexually assaulted them in the 1970s.
On May 21st, the Merryfield brothers won their lawsuit against the Diocese, following a trial that lasted eight days. Todd Merryfield was awarded $225,000 in damages, while his brother Troy was awarded $475,000. Now, the Diocese is asking for a new trial.
"It appears that they're requesting a new trial because they feel that one of the jurors was biased," said John Pilmaier with SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "It appears that the juror had made some comments in the parking lot after the trial, and there was some question as to some of the answers that they had filled out on their questionnaire."
The Catholic Diocese of Green Bay released a statement Thursday saying, "Because this is a matter under judicial review, we do not have any comment at this time." It goes on to say that there are a number of strict policies in place for keeping children safe. But workers with SNAP say calling for a new trial will only prolong the pain and heartache experienced by the Merryfield family.
"This is a pattern here that we've seen in the Diocese of Green Bay where they will not accept responsibility for the harm they have inflicted on children and families throughout the Green Bay Diocese," said Pilmaier.
The judge has scheduled a hearing to decide whether or not a new trial will take place. It's scheduled for June 26th.