Saturday, 23 January 2010

USA: ruling in priest sex abuse case may set precedent

Former priest Harry Monroe

A Marion County judge will let jurors hear testimony about the "repressed memories" of a man whose allegation of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest is based on memories so painful that experts say he lost access to them for decades.

The decision by Superior Court Judge David Dreyer could break new ground in Indiana. Henry Karlson, an Indiana University law scholar, said he's not aware of a case in
Indiana in which a jury has been allowed to hear evidence about repressed memories...

...Dreyer ordered Wednesday that the repressed-memory case and a case involving a former altar boy at St. Catherine must go forward. Another judge ruled in 2007 that a third case should go forward. The trials should begin later this year. None is likely to be as hotly contested as the repressed-memory case.

Both sides have lined up Harvard University experts and others to testify about the validity of repressed memories. Karlson said repressed-memory testimony has been used in hearings before judges who are trying to rule on statutes of limitations issues. This order, sending the issue to a jury, is different.

"Ultimately," Karlson said, "this is going to force the court of appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court to make a determination on the use of repressed memory in cases of this nature."

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