Speed of Verdict Takes Everyone, Even the Media, By Surprise

TOLEDO -- The trial of a priest who's now convicted of murdering a nun in 1980 has been the talk of the town for almost three weeks. It's also a hot issue among the media. Along with local coverage, news crews from both CNN and Court TV have been in town, covering the case and creating a media circus.

In the news business, people are usually ready for anything. But even the media were surprised by Thursday's verdict. Court TV correspondent Beth Karas is one observer who hasn't leaned toward one side or the other since the trial began, but even as a neutral party, she found herself surprised when the verdict came down.

"It was such a quick verdict," she said. "The jury didn't seem to have much an issue with the testimony. They weren't allowed to take notes, and there were a lot of details and timeline issues."

Karas is a former Manhattan prosecutor who knows the ins and outs of the court system. She has covered hundreds of trials -- but she says this case of a priest accused of killing a nun and every piece of testimony is by far the most bizarre.

"It's who the victim is, and who the defendant is, and where it occurred in the circumstances of the murder -- and how the murder occurred," Karas said. "An inverted cross over the heart."

Karas also said, "All of that made it very fascinating and very different from any case I've seen in my 20 years as a lawyer both prosecuting and reporting on cases."

Beth Karas has been in town for almost three weeks, and she's been in the courtroom since the testimony started. She even went along when the jury viewed the former Mercy Hospital.

Karas plans to return home soon for a quick break, then she'll be off to the Duke rape trial as early as next week.

Also reacting to Thursday's events were members of SNAP -- the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Claudia Vercellotti said the verdict brings some justice to the survivor community, and she hopes that it will open the door to more coverups.

"I hope that there's more to come," she said. "I think that this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the Toledo Catholic Diocese's coverup of child sex crimes. That's how this case stated, that's how it got here. I give tremendous credit to Jane Doe for speaking up when Ohio Catholic laws are so archaic and her case will never see the light of day in court."

Posted by PJS