Take the Fifth

Take the Fifth

Bishop Thomas Dupre, the former bishop of Springfield, Mass., has decided to invoke the Fifth Amendment in a civil suit alleging he sexually abused boys when he was a parish priest. Bishop Dupre, remember, abruptly resigned citing ill health just days before the case went public, and then reportedly showed up at the St. Luke’s Institute. What is they treat there again?

For those who don’t have a copy of the US Constitution handy, that’s the amendment that preserves us from having to testify against ourselves in case such testimony may be incriminating.

We are assured by Arthur D. Wolf, a law professor at Western New England Law School, that we shouldn’t read too much into the invocation of the Fifth Amendment.

“Sometimes when someone invokes the Fifth Amendment, people think it looks bad and assume guilt, but it may not be the case at all,” Wolf said. “It may be a situation where someone may have acted immorally but not illegally. They may be embarrassed about having it revealed.”

Oh, that makes me feel a lot better.

  • By taking the fifth amendment, he can never claim that he denied the allegations under oath.  That’s a serious thing to surrender if one cared about their honor.

    Also, since this is a civil trial, the outcome is determined by “preponderance of evidence” and not “guilt beyond reasonable doubt”.

  • How many BISHOPS do we now have who were homosexual molestor perverts themselves?  (Five or six; I’ve lost count…)  And assuredly, there are a not insignificant number active homosexual bishops as well.  Homosexuality among priests and bishops is a scourge…

    A not very long time ago, the thought of one homomolesting bishop would have been an immense scandal.  Now we just yawn.

    We need to dequeerize the Church.

  • I don’t know where the law professor was quoted or if he was quoted accurately, but you cannot take the fifth amendment merely becasue the conduct is immoral or embarrassing.  It only applies to criminal activity.  Use in other circumstances is perjury. You have to answer relevant questions relating to noncriminal immoral or embarrassing behavior. You can’t refuse to answer.

  • Also, it may be different in other states, but the general rule is that valid assertion of a privilege is inadmissible in court. A proper assertion of the 5th amendment in a civil case would not typically be heard by the jury.

  • But, sealawr, a witness does not have to know to a metaphysical certainty that he has engaged in conduct that would be punishable as criminal, and/or that his answer to a particular question would alone implicate him in criminal conduct, in order for him to invoke the Fifth.  I believe it is sufficient for the witness to seek the Fifth’s protection if the circumstances are at all ambiguous.  Also, when in doubt, better to invoke early and often, lest your privilege to invoke be deemed waived and lost for good.  (This may be why the prof is saying that the conduct may be non-criminal but embarassing.)

    Not that any of those legalities makes me any more comfortable with the morality of Bp. Dupre’s decision to remain silent.

  • You don’t need to have a metaphysical certainty that acrime was committed, but a good lawyer can narrow the scope of the activities covered by the privilege (as I have done several times). By doing so, you can establish that a statute of limtaitons has expired, requiring an answer, or if it’s improtant, you go see the DA and get immunity for the unlikely criminal activity and then force the witness to answer the questions. If criminal activity is in the works you simply wait until the crinal matter has been resolved and jeopardy has attached to get your answers in the later civil action.

    There are creative solutions to this problem.