Feit Defense Request Motion for Mistrial after Witness’s Testimony

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Richard Sipe giving testimony on his findings on John Feit, after researching his case files. Richard Sipe giving testimony on his findings on John Feit, after researching his case files.

EDINBURG – After another busy day in court, jurors were dismissed early Tuesday in the John Feit murder trial.

The judge is considering a defense motion to declare a mistrial.

Two experts in Canon and Catholic Church law took the stand Tuesday. A statement from one of those experts prompted the mistrial request.

Before the request, jurors spent most of the day listening to testimony from the two church experts.

At the start of the day’s session, lead prosecutor Michael Garza said it’s a case of betrayal, murder and a cover-up.

One of the witnesses was an expert in church law and the other an expert on the sexual behavior of some Catholic priests.

Thomas Doyle is a priest who no longer conducts church ceremonies. He was given access to some of the church’s files regarding Feit.

The files included letters and memos that were exchanged between priests in the Rio Grande Valley shortly after Irene Garza was killed.

Doyle said one letter, dated Aug. 1, 1960, detailed the church’s plan to avoid any bad publicity regarding the Garza investigation.

According to Doyle, the priest who wrote the letter told his fellow clergymen the investigating sheriff in Hidalgo County had advised him to “arrange a meeting with the police chief of McAllen, the prosecuting attorney and the sheriff, plus four priests at this meeting – this whole situation is brought out. And the prosecution will be able to see how strong the opposition is to their charges. They'll also be brought to realize in a nice way that the church won’t take this sitting down.”

There were experts that talked about moving Feit to another location from McAllen. It was something that was commonly done.

During cross-examination, Feit’s attorneys pointed out that Doyle’s testimony was nothing more than his opinion.

Doyle responded by saying that he was an expert witness and gives expert opinions.

He also clarified, “It’s not clear to me if the church went to the sheriff or if the sheriff went to the church, but the sheriff was involved and they told him they were going to fight the case and it later was clear to me he was helping them orchestrate a strategy.”

Next on the stand was Richard Sipe, a trained priest who now studies celibacy in the Catholic Church. He has published hundreds of articles about sex and the clergy. His work is mentioned in the 2016 Academy Award-winning, Best Picture film, "Spotlight".

He also reviewed the state’s file on Feit. Sipe said there was a clear picture of involvement by Feit in this case.

Sipe said most people do not act on their sexual urges, but there are people that do. He described what he learned about Feit.

“The documents I believe showed a man, at least the terms of the documents that I saw, was characterologically a man who would fit into immature psychosexual development and also a sociopathological tendency is in terms of sexuality,” stated Sipe to the court.

Sipe also told the jury that he felt Feit could behave well in a structured environment, but outside of that, his impulses could take over.

He described Feit as a smart and clever man but said a break out of violence and human impulse was obvious. Eventually, he said, moving into murder.

During cross-examination by the defense, Sipe said he has never met or spoken to Feit. His findings were all based on his case file, including depositions and testimony.

Sipe mentioned the term “polygraph,” that prompted defense attorney Rene Flores to ask for a mistrial after the jury left the courtroom.

Polygraphs are not admissible in court.

The judge will rule on the motion for a mistrial first thing Wednesday morning.

If the judge grants the motion and a mistrial is declared, the jury will be dismissed and the trial would begin all over again.

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