On March 11-12, the High Court of Australia will hear Cardinal George Pell’s appeal of his conviction on charges of “historic sexual abuse.” The High Court has seven judges and a majority vote is required to decide an appeal. In a high-profile case like this, it is expected that all seven judges will sit for the appeal, although in some instances only five sit. There is no set time-line for the High Court to render its decision.
Should the High Court reverse Cardinal Pell’s conviction, a verdict of “acquitted” will be entered in his case and the cardinal will be immediately released from prison. Should the High Court uphold the conviction, the reputation of Australian criminal justice will be gravely and permanently damaged, just as the reputation of French military justice was destroyed by the false conviction of Captain Alfred Dreyfus – another innocent man victimized by rancid politics and irrational religious prejudice.
Cardinal Pell’s first appeal, to the Supreme Court of the State of Victoria, was rejected last August by the 2-1 vote of a three-judge panel. The lengthy dissenting opinion by dissenting by Justice Mark Weinberg – the only judge on the panel with criminal law experience – has been praised as a masterpiece of legal reasoning. More to the immediate point, it has become clear in the past five months that the Weinberg opinion eviscerated the credibility of the prosecution case against Cardinal Pell as well as the opinions of the two judges who upheld the cardinal’s conviction (which, it will be remembered, came on a unanimous vote in a second trial after Pell’s first trial ended in a hung jury, reported to have been heavily in favor of the cardinal’s acquittal).
Read more at Catholic World Report