Australia’s High Court will announce Wednesday whether or not they will hear an appeal by Cardinal George Pell to overturn his conviction.
The Australian High Court confirmed Monday they will make an announcement Wednesday from two judges whether the full seven judge court will hear an appeal by Cardinal Pell. The decision will be given at 9:30 a.m. from Canberra, the country’s capital, however Pell won’t be in attendance.
If they decide to hear an appeal, the High Court is usually expeditious when the appellant is in custody, but a trial cannot take place until the judges return from summer recess in February. However, the court rejects around 90% of all appellant’s who file to seek “special leave of appeal.”
Under Australian law, Pell’s lawyers had 28 days from the decision to deny his initial appeal to file a “special leave of appeal” with the High Court of Australia, his last avenue in the appellate process to overturn the contentious conviction.
His legal team then submitted a 12 page application to seek leave of appeal with the High Court on the grounds that the testimony of a single witness was not “beyond reasonable doubt.”
“The majority erred by finding that their belief in the complainant required the applicant to establish that the offending was impossible. The majority erred in their conclusion that the verdicts were not unreasonable.”
Pell’s legal team led by one of Australia’s top lawyers, Brit Walker SC, argued the burden of proof was shifted to them to prove he did not commit the offense, rather than the prosecution proving he did.
Experts believe the court will grant a hearing given the dissent by Justice Mark Weinberg, the most experienced judge on the appeal.
Weinberg’s dissenting opinion held that the main witness was “inclined to embellish” and that his evidence “displayed inadequacies.” Weinberg also held that Pell’s clerical robes were not “capable of being maneuvered, pulled to one side or pulled apart.”
His dissent could be considered “differences of opinion within the one court” according to the “criteria for granting special leave to appeal” under Section 35A of the 1903 Judiciary Act of Australia.
Since February 27th, Pell has been held in solitary confinement in the Melbourne Assessment Prison, allowed only one hour per day outside his cell, sentenced to a minimum of 3 years and 8 months of a total 6 year sentence. Unable to celebrate Mass, he was given a job weeding the prison’s courtyard.