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Commonwealth v. Lynn

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

June 28, 2018


          Appeal from the Order March 28, 2017 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-51-CR-0003530-2011



          PANELLA, J.

         This appeal arises from the grant of a new criminal trial by a panel of this Court. Monsignor William J. Lynn appeals from the order denying his motion to dismiss the charges and bar retrial on double jeopardy grounds.[1]Lynn argues after-discovered evidence of prosecutorial misconduct implicates the Double Jeopardy Clause in Article 1, § 10 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and prohibits the Commonwealth from retrying him. Because we conclude Lynn has failed to demonstrate any of the alleged acts of misconduct were intended to deprive him of a fair trial, we affirm.

         As our Supreme Court has provided a detailed description of the facts underlying this case in its prior opinion, Commonwealth v. Lynn, 114 A.3d 796, 798-808 (Pa. 2015) ("Lynn II"), we need not recite the entirety of this case's history. See also Commonwealth v. Lynn, 83 A.3d 434, 437-445 (Pa. Super. 2013) ("Lynn I"), rev'd Lynn II (providing summary of facts and procedural history).

         Briefly, from 1992 until 2004, Lynn served as Secretary for Clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. As part of his duties as secretary, Lynn was responsible for receiving and investigating allegations of sexual abuse by priests within the Archdiocese, as well as suggesting placements for, and supervising, priests previously accused of abuse.

         In early 2011, following a grand jury investigation into claims of sexual abuse by priests and concealment of this abuse by the Archdiocese, Lynn was arrested and charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of children ("EWOC"), 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 4304, and two counts of conspiracy to commit EWOC, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 903. Lynn's charges arose from claims that he, in his capacity as secretary, negligently supervised two priests, Reverend Edward V. Avery and Reverend James Brennan.[2] Due to previous complaints, Lynn knew that both Avery and Brennan had been accused of sexually abusing juvenile parishioners. Despite this knowledge, in 1993, Lynn recommended that Avery live in the rectory at nearby St. Jerome's Church-a church with a grade school attached. Several years after Avery was placed at St. Jerome's rectory, D.G., a student at St. Jerome's grade school, claimed he had been sexually abused by Avery.[3]

         Lynn proceeded to trial on March 26, 2012, based in part upon D.G.'s allegations.[4] As part of the Commonwealth's case in chief, D.G. testified he first met Avery while participating in the bell crew or choir as a fifth grade student at St. Jerome's grade school. Shortly thereafter, D.G. recounted that Avery took the opportunity to molest him on two separate occasions following early morning mass at St. Jerome's Church. D.G. claimed he was serving as an altar boy for the early morning mass, and was left alone with Avery after the conclusion of mass. Following this experience, D.G. testified he became withdrawn and began using drugs. This eventually culminated in D.G.'s development of a heroin addiction at the age of seventeen.

         In addition to D.G.'s testimony, the Commonwealth utilized Detective Joseph Walsh to introduce "other-acts" evidence of the Archdiocese's handling of abuse allegations raised against twenty-one priests other than Avery and Brennan.[5] After two months of testimony, the jury convicted Lynn of one count of EWOC, relating to his supervision of Avery.[6] On July 24, 2012, the trial court sentenced Lynn to a term of three to six years' imprisonment.

         Following a series of appeals, a panel of this Court vacated the judgment of sentence and granted Lynn a new trial upon concluding the trial court abused its discretion by admitting a "high volume of unfairly prejudicial other-acts evidence." Lynn III, No. 2171 EDA 2012, at 1, 2015 WL 9320082, at *1. However, before the Commonwealth could retry Lynn, he filed a motion to dismiss his charges.

         In his motion, Lynn claimed to have discovered the Commonwealth had asked Detective Walsh to investigate the veracity of D.G.'s grand jury testimony prior to Lynn's first jury trial. Lynn alleged the Commonwealth had committed prosecutorial misconduct by failing to inform him of this investigation, as well as the allegedly damning responses of D.G. and the Assistant District Attorney ("ADA") in charge of the case, Mariana Sorensen, when confronted with inconsistences in D.G.'s story. Lynn contends that permitting the Commonwealth to proceed with a retrial in the face of their intentional misconduct would violate his double jeopardy rights under Article 1, § 10 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

         In response, the Commonwealth conceded hiring Detective Walsh to investigate D.G.'s claims, but claimed any inconsistencies in D.G.'s testimony were provided to Lynn before trial. Further, the Commonwealth disputed Lynn's conclusion that D.G. had lied on the witness stand. As such, the Commonwealth alleged that no prosecutorial misconduct had occurred, as the Commonwealth did not withhold any discoverable evidence from Lynn and therefore did not act with intent to cause prejudice to Lynn.

         The trial court scheduled a series of hearings on the matter. At the hearings, Detective Walsh confirmed the Commonwealth hired him to investigate the accuracy of D.G.'s grand jury testimony. See N.T., Hearing, 1/13/17 at 8-9. After conducting interviews with members of D.G.'s family and staff at St. Jerome's grade school, Detective Walsh determined that certain details surrounding D.G.'s account of his abuse were inconsistent with information gathered through the interviews. See id., at 9-10. Specifically, Detective Walsh received information that appeared to counter D.G.'s claims that he served early morning mass in fifth grade, was a member of the bell crew in fifth grade, or ever participated in bell choir. See id., at 29, 31, 33-34, 36, 41, 58. During a trial preparation session in February 2012, Detective Walsh confronted D.G. about these inconsistencies, and claimed D.G. either failed to respond when challenged, or stated he was high when he made his initial statement to the police. See id., at 60-64.

         Additionally, Detective Walsh testified he informed ADA Sorensen of these inconsistencies as he discovered them, but that she always confirmed her belief in D.G.'s story. See id., at 78-79. However, on one occasion in January 2012, before Detective Walsh's trial preparation session with D.G., Detective Walsh's report of inconsistencies was met with her telling him "you're killing my case." Id., at 79. Lynn asserts that these inconsistencies and ADA Sorensen's response were proof that D.G.'s story of Avery's abuse was untrue, that ADA Sorensen was aware it was untrue, and as such, the prosecutor's actions in placing D.G. on the witness stand during trial constituted prosecutorial misconduct.

         At the conclusion of the hearings, the trial court found that while the Commonwealth failed to provide Lynn with certain aspects of Detective Walsh's investigation, there was no evidence this failure constituted misconduct severe enough to warrant dismissal of Lynn's charges. See N.T., Hearing, 3/24/17, at 4-5. Instead, the trial court found the proper remedy in this case would be a new trial. See id., at 4. As Lynn had already been granted a new trial, albeit on different grounds, the trial court found no further relief was warranted. See id. This appeal followed.

         On appeal, Lynn maintains the trial court erred in failing to dismiss his charges on double jeopardy grounds. He rests his argument on two bases. First, Lynn contends double jeopardy should attach due to the Commonwealth's intentional decision to withhold exculpatory information from him prior to trial. Second, he claims the ...

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