“Last-minute questions” are being considered before the verdict is handed down in the appeal of Cardinal George Pell’s abuse conviction.
Last December, Cardinal Pell was convicted by an Australian civil court on five counts of child sex abuse. However, because of a sweeping gag order imposed by the judge, the results of that trial were not widely reported until the media restriction was lifted at a later time.
Throughout the trial Pell maintained his innocence: his legal team immediately appealed the conviction, and experts believe he has a “high chance” of winning. A “fast-tracked” 3-day hearing for his appeal was held from June 4th – 6th.
“An appeal has already been lodged to be pursued following sentencing on three grounds: the prohibition of video evidence in the closing address, jury composition, and unreasonableness.”
Defense lawyer Bret Walker focused the argument on the first alleged assault, describing the circumstances in which Pell is alleged to have assaulted two choir boys simultaneously for over 5 minutes in a busy sacristy as “matters of physical improbability to the point of impossibility” and “literally and logically impossible according to the complainant’s account.”
Now, three judges from the Victorian Court of Appeals are dealing with “last-minute questions” on the law regarding how Pell was arraigned abnormally – not in physically in front of jurors, but through a live video feed.
Since February 27th, Pell has been held in solitary confinement in the Melbourne Assessment Prison, allowed only one hour per day outside his cell, sentenced to a minimum of 3 years and 8 months. Given the likelihood of his appeal’s success, Pell and his supporters are making new living arrangements for a “safe hideaway” if the appeal is successful.
The potential for backlash and threats on Pell’s life are so high that he would have to live in a “secure compound.” Potential locations include an undisclosed location in southeastern Australia, Rome, or a seminary in Sydney or Victoria.
Legal experts believe the three judges will make their public deliberations and hand down a verdict later this month, with an expectation the Australian Supreme Court will thereafter make their own ruling on the case.