Verdict - Summer 2015 - (Page 11)

> HOW WE OBTAINED JUSTICE FOR OUR CLIENT Trying a Sex Abuse Case Against a Local Church in a Conservative Venue BY JEFF HARRIS, JED MANTON, YVONNE GODFREY AND MOLLY MCNEELEY I f justice means anything, it means that How do you show the jury, in a conserva- him. No one told him that he should become a as a group, trial lawyers should fight tive venue like Jackson County, why it should member of the church first, or that he should for voiceless victims. A minor who hold a church responsible? How do you con- even attend the church for a longer period has been sexually abused cries out vince the jury to assign an appropriate amount of time before volunteering with the youth. and deserves our organization's full of fault to the church, when it's so easy to Instead, the molester was given "youth leader efforts to restore justice. blame the youth volunteer and subsequently volunteer" paperwork to fill out and return Our client, a then 14-year-old boy, attended convicted child molester? These were just to the youth minister. He was then invited to a fall homecoming festival at a Jackson County some of the issues we confronted in our case. start participating and volunteering with the church with his friend. Our client was not a church's youth prior to any investigation into member or regular attendee of the church. AN ORGANIZATION IN TRANSITION After the festival had concluded, our client It was clear to us that the church was in a time his background. When the paperwork was returned, left the church on foot with his friend and one of transition and lacking leadership when the warning signs were evident. For example, of the church's youth volunteers. Moments molestation occurred. The church was plan- he indicated that he had experience teach- later, and after leaving church property, the ning to merge with another church in the area. ing youth groups, but he could not remember youth volunteer molested our client. The head pastor had recently left the church, the names, addresses, or phone numbers of The theme of the case was simple: our client leaving no clear leadership structure. The any of his former churches. His paperwork and the youth volunteer's paths never should church had relevant policies and procedures claimed that all of the former churches that have crossed. Accordingly, our case centered dealing with church volunteers, but did not fol- he attended had closed and there was no on the church's failures to screen the volun- low their own standards. With this backdrop, one that could be contacted to vouch for him. teer and its decisions to ignore the red flags a then 21-year-old man, the eventual molester, Furthermore, his alleged "teaching" experi- that indicated he had no business volunteer- visited the church and during his very first ence, if someone would have examined the ing with church youth. But how do you bring a visit told church members that he wanted dates on the paperwork, showed he claimed successful case against a church, a non-profit to volunteer with the youth. There was no to lead youth groups when he was only 12 or 13 organization, which was founded in the 1800s? leader to meet with him. No one interviewed years old. Likewise, his volunteer file showed Summer 2015 11

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Verdict - Summer 2015

President’s Message
GTLA President’s Gala
Trying a Sex Abuse Case Against a Local Church in a Conservative Venue
New Strategies and Interventions to Curtail Discovery Abuses
High-Speed Police Chases and Injured Innocent Bystanders
When One Award is Not Enough
Three Strategies to Fend off a Funding Attack
Recent Updates to Georgia Suggested Pattern Jury Instructions (Civil), July 2013 – Present
The Hidden Predator Act: How House Bill 17 Will Impact Victims’ Rights in Georgia
New Lawyers’ Corner: Trying a Low-Damage Jury Case
Professional Practice Pointers: Updates on E-filing, the Court of Appeals, and a New Traffic Division in DeKalb State
Case Updates: What’s New?
Workers’ Comp Updates
Notes: What’s New with GTLA Members
Welcome New GTLA Members!
Index to Advertisers

Verdict - Summer 2015