A juror who led the effort to acquit Will Lynch for punching a priest he claims molested him as a child confessed Friday that he would have handled the attack on the cleric differently.
"I would have used a club,'' said Rich Parker, a semi-retired bail bondsman.
In an interview with this newspaper, Parker offered the first peek at the jury's deliberations in a case that shined the national spotlight on clerical sex abuse and its impact on victims.
Lynch, now 44, pummeled the Rev. Jerold Lindner at a Jesuit retirement home in Los Gatos in spring 2010, about 35 years after the priest allegedly sodomized him and forced him to have oral sex with his 4-year-old brother during a religious camping trip in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The beating left the 65-year-old cleric bloodied, bruised and with two small cuts requiring stitches.
Parker's account came on the same day Santa Clara County prosecutor Vicki Gemetti officially entered into the court record a decision that District Attorney Jeff Rosen had already announced: The office will not re-try Lynch for misdemeanor assault.
Earlier this month, the panel of three women and nine men acquitted Lynch of felony assault, and felony and misdemeanor elder abuse. But the jury deadlocked 8-4 in favor of conviction on the misdemeanor assault count.
After the judge dismissed the charge Friday, Lynch thanked the jury again and offered to work with Rosen to eliminate the statute of limitations on child molestation. Lindner was never prosecuted because Lynch and others reported the alleged abuse after the brief window of opportunity set by the statute of limitations at the time slammed shut.
Rosen's office, which has helped lead the battle statewide on this issue long before the Lynch trial, accepted, saying "We are open to working constructively with anyone who wants to make Santa Clara County a safer place, including Mr. Lynch now that he has expressed responsibility for his actions.''
Rosen's decision not to retry Lynch pleased another juror, even though that juror was part of the majority that voted for conviction. Lynch admitted on the stand that he had punched Lindner after the priest "leered'' at him. But prosecutors argued Lynch had planned the "vigilante'' attack to gain revenge on the priest for the alleged molestation.
"I do not think Will Lynch is dangerous,'' said the man, who asked that his name and occupation not be published. "If we kept deliberating, I probably would have joined the other side.''
Both jurors said the whole panel felt sympathetic toward Lynch, who sobbed while testifying about being tormented for decades by the rape and lack of "justice.'' They also said the jury was shocked when Gemetti flatly stated at the beginning of the trial that the priest had committed the crime.
The jury also learned that in 1998, Lynch and his brother were awarded about $187,000 each after legal fees.
After hearing all that, "I was wondering why there was a trial of Lynch,'' the anonymous juror said.
The jury deliberated about nine hours over a three-day period. Within the first 45 minutes, the panel elected one of the three women to be the foreperson and agreed Lynch was not guilty of the elder abuse charges, Parker said.
The juror who asked to be anonymous said he voted for acquittal on both those charges partly because he associates elder abuse with much more vulnerable elderly people who are harmed over a longer period of time through starvation or physical abuse. Another reason for the rapid acquittal was Gemetti didn't prove Lynch knew or should have known that Lindner was 65, Parker said.
The panel also acquitted Lynch of felony assault, though that took a little longer. Parker scoffed at the priest's injuries, drawing from his own experience as a medical specialist in the Navy in Vietnam where he saw "real'' great bodily injury. "My son came home from junior high school sports,'' he said, "looking worse than Lindner.''
Parker, a 65-year-old Willow Glen resident, said after several jurors voiced concern about causing Lynch any more suffering, he raised the controversial notion of jury nullification -- when a panel acquits a defendant despite evidence of guilt because it believes a conviction would be unjust. Parker said he learned of it years ago when he received a jury summons and decided to thoroughly research what jury duty was all about because he had never served.
Some of the jurors weren't clear on the concept, so they sent a note to the judge, asking for clarification. Behind locked doors, Judge David A. Cena heard impassioned on-the-record arguments from the lawyers about how to respond and sent the jury back a note. Parker said the note instructed jurors they would be violating their oath if they ignored his instructions about the law and nullified.
Some of the jurors who were on the fence then felt compelled to find Lynch guilty since he admitted the crime, Parker said; others believed all along he was guilty of simple assault.
But Parker said he was confident about the jury's power to nullify since he vaguely remembered reading a long time ago that one of the Founding Fathers had vouched for it. (It was John Adams who said it is not only a juror's right, but his duty to "find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.")
Initially, Parker and two other men voted to acquit, then were joined by a fourth man. Parker said the group was able to find reasonable doubt that Lynch was guilty, though he acknowledged Friday that the list of factors they drew up may not make much legal sense. Still, he felt comfortable voting for acquittal because Lynch had testified that what he did was wrong.
"But after the trial, I wanted to turn to him and say to him,'' Parker said, "'Don't do it again, you might not be so lucky next time.'''
Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482.