Shanley recovered memory case Mass. Court Denies Ex-Priest’s Bid for New Trial

January 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

Mass. Court Denies Ex-Priest’s Bid for New Trial 1/15/10 BOSTON (AP) The victim, now in his 30s, claimed Shanley raped him repeatedly when he was a child attending catechism classes at a church in Newton. He said he repressed memory of the abuse for two decades until he saw media coverage of the clergy scandal in 2002.
The Supreme Judicial Court agreed with a Superior Court judge who ruled earlier that repressed memory theory, or ”dissociative amnesia,” is controversial, but generally accepted in the relevant scientific community. The high court said the theory is supported by ”a wide collection of clinical observations and a survey of academic  literature.”….

”Repressed memories of abuse is a legitimate phenomenon and provided a valid basis for the jury to find that the victim, a child at the time of the assaults, repressed memories of the years of abuse he suffered at the hands of Paul Shanley, someone who was in a significant position of authority and trust,” Leone said in a statement….During Shanley’s trial, the victim tearfully described how the popular priest used to pull him out of classes and rape him, beginning when he was just 6 years old and continuing until he was 12.

Shanley, now 78, was known in the 1960s and 1970s as a ”street priest” who reached out to Boston’s troubled youth. Internal records showed that church officials were aware of sexual abuse complaints against him as early as 1967. The clergy sex abuse crisis erupted in Boston in 2002 after church records were made public showing that church officials had reports of priests molesting children, but kept the complaints secret and shuffled some priests from parish to parish rather than remove them. The crisis, which led to the resignation of Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, spread as similar sexual abuse complaints were uncovered in dioceses across the country.

describes crimes
COMMONWEALTH vs. PAUL SHANLEY DOCKET SJC-10382 Dates: September 10, 2009 – January 15, 2010

CORDY, J. On February 7, 2005, Paul Shanley was convicted of sexual abuse of a child: two indictments charging rape, in violation of G. L. c. 265, § 23; and two indictments charging indecent assault and battery on a person under the age of fourteen years, in violation of G. L. c. 265, § 13B. The abuse occurred between 1983 and 1989 when the victim was attending Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) classes at the church where the defendant served as a Catholic priest. The victim testified that he did not remember being abused by the defendant until nearly twenty years later, when he learned that other individuals had publicly made allegations that the defendant had sexually abused them when they were children. The victim’s testimony about what he remembered of that abuse constituted the core of the evidence against the defendant at trial….
Setting aside the victim’s testimony regarding the alleged sexual abuse, and the testimony of the Commonwealth’s expert, the jury could have found the following facts. The defendant was a priest at St. Jean’s Church in Newton during the years when the victim was enrolled in CCD classes there. He would often check on the children while they were in their CCD classes on Sundays. Children ranging from the ages of six to fourteen, including the victim, attended these classes.

The victim was born on September 9, 1977, and grew up in Newton with two siblings. His parents separated when he was four years of age and, after a short stay with his mother, he lived primarily with his father in his paternal grandmother’s house. The victim attended CCD classes with the same group of children at St. Jean’s Church from first grade (in 1983) until he reached eighth grade. During the years the victim attended CCD classes, some of the children became quite boisterous and periodically were required to leave the classroom. The victim and two of his friends in particular were disciplined often, both in the lower grades and when they were in fourth or fifth grade. On occasion, the defendant admonished those who were required to leave the classroom for misbehavior, and the victim was observed leaving the classroom with the defendant on several occasions….

The defendant began sexually abusing him when he was approximately six years of age and first began attending CCD classes. The defendant would take the victim out of his CCD class, bring him to the bathroom in the basement, unzip the victim’s pants watch him urinate, and then touch the victim’s penis with his hand and mouth.

The defendant also sexually assaulted the victim in the pews of the church after the victim put pamphlets in the pews for the upcoming Mass. He would do so by sitting next to the victim, putting his right arm around the victim, touching the victim’s penis through his clothes, and grabbing the victim’s hand and putting it on his own penis over his clothing. The defendant would also bring the victim into the confessional room which was located “off the side of the pews,” where the defendant would undress them both and place his finger in the victim’s anus….

The abuse of the victim continued until the defendant left the Newton church in 1990 when the victim was approximately thirteen years of age. The defendant told the victim that no one would ever believe him if he disclosed the abuse….

In describing how dissociative amnesia works, Dr. Chu testified that it is possible for a person to forget something and remember it later. Dr. Chu observed the phenomenon in his own clinical practice with adults who had been traumatized as children and explained that while it was not common in that population, it was “not at all rare.” He analogized dissociative amnesia to a type of forgetting, which “leads to people having really pervasive amnesia for not only [traumatic] events themselves, but [also] sometimes for neutral events or even good events.” He explained that persons who have experienced repeated traumatization suffer from dissociative amnesia more often than those who experience a single traumatic event.

He went on to testify that when a person remembers “so- called forgotten memories,” it is usually the result of a “trigger of some kind” which reminds that person of the traumatic experience.(10) While there was no typical pattern for the subsequent reaction of a traumatized person once there has been a trigger, the person may experience memory flashes or “body sensations.” More specifically, a person might experience physical sensations that mirror the sensations he or she incurred from the trauma itself (for example, genital pain where a person had suffered sexual abuse); or have a subsequent reaction to a trigger, become overwhelmed by the sudden onset of traumatic memories and experience “people panic,” that is, agitation, crying, and increased adrenaline….

Dr. Chu concluded by estimating that dissociative amnesia occurs in approximately twenty per cent of the seriously traumatized population….

Dr. Brown testified that based on his clinical experience, his review of thousands of studies regarding various aspects of memory, and his analysis of eighty-five studies focused on amnesia in childhood sexual abuse cases, many of which were subject to peer review, it was his opinion that dissociative amnesia exists for a clinically significant minority of traumatized individuals, including children subjected to sexual abuse. He also testified about the evolution of the use of dissociative amnesia as a diagnosis in the DSM, which has been revised several times. He opined that this diagnosis is generally accepted in the field and cited six surveys of psychology professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and clinicians working with war veterans to that effect. According to those surveys (taken collectively), eighty- nine per cent of those surveyed accepted the validity or possible validity of dissociative amnesia….
The judge denied the defendant’s motion to exclude expert testimony on dissociative amnesia and recovered memory, concluding that the diagnosis and theories behind it were generally accepted in the relevant scientific community.  In doing so, the judge recognized the significance of its listing as a diagnosis in DSM-IV, and credited the testimony of Dr. Brown that “clinically significant minorities of [victims of child sexual abuse] experience amnesia,” testimony that was buttressed by the studies cited to and relied on by Dr. Brown which “reflect[ed] a broad-based acceptance of dissociative amnesia and recovery.”….

In her closing, the prosecutor stated:
“[The victim] is a twenty-seven year old man. He’s recently married. He has a job that he loves . . . . He has half a million dollars in his pocket. So why, ladies and gentlemen, did he come in here and tell you what happened to him? Why? What does your common sense tell you?

“You saw him on that stand for almost 14 hours day after day, hour after hour, he willed himself through that testimony. You saw it. What does your common sense tell you?
“He came in here and he told you what happened because that man, that defendant, that priest, raped him and molested him when he was a little boy over and over again. The defendant would have you believe it is all a lie. It’s for the money; that people don’t forget about things that happen to them and then later remember them. . . .

“Was it all a lie? Was it made up? Did [the victim] come in here and just lie about it? Was it for the money? He has the money. He got the money over nine months ago. No strings attached. What did he get from coming in here? The opportunity to be on the stand? He sustained long, painful questioning, and what did he get from it?

Cover up: Documents: Archdiocese knew priest was a rapist – by Tom Mashberg and Robin Washington – 4/9/02 Boston Herald

Paul Shanley – Summary of Case

Websites citing journal articles proving the veracity of recovered memory include :

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