Maine Murderer Takes the Fall for Connecticut Priest

Posted on March 30, 2011


Author: Stan Moody

60 Years and Counting:

It was August 20, 1987.  The Prosecution asked the Court to sentence 23-yr. old Jeffrey Libby to 50 years for murdering his grandfather in a fit of rage.  The judge, now deceased, sentenced him to 60 years, saying, “There is nothing in this case that can be seen as a mitigating circumstance.”

On April 23, 2010, the Maine Governor’s Board on Executive Clemency denied Libby’s petition for a clemency hearing despite a growing list of distinguished supporters.

Bureaucratic Fumble:

Guidelines for hearing a petition for commutation are that 50% of the sentence be served.  Libby has served 24 years.  Unknown to the Court at his sentencing but fully documented in the Petition to the Board on Executive Clemency was that Libby was sexually abused by a CT priest at ages 13 and 14.

Forensic reports from distinguished psychologists in Maine and Connecticut clearly traced the sexual abuse to the murder 9 years later.

Libby is not in denial about his crime, nor is he asking for commutation.  He seeks only a clemency hearing 6 years earlier than permissible because of extenuating circumstances surrounding his case.  The power to grant that hearing resides in the Governor of the State of Maine.

John Baldacci, previous Governor and a practicing Catholic, was unsuccessfully petitioned by the Diocese of Portland to use his executive powers to grant that hearing.

Sexual Abuse in a Shroud of Silence:

Is sexual abuse a legitimate mitigating circumstance in a gruesome murder?  More to the point, would the court in 1987 have recognized its impact without psychiatric testimony of the effects of clergy sexual abuse – data scarcely available at that time?  Canon Lawyer, Thomas P. Doyle of Vienna, VA, makes a strong case for benevolent action on behalf of Jeff Libby.

For 26 years, Fr. Doyle has met with thousands of victims of clergy sexual abuse and has published 2 books and 10 scholarly articles on the causes and effects of clergy sexual abuse.

Among his assertions, taken by affidavit, was that “…Catholics have been taught that priests take the place of Jesus Christ. Because of this deeply ingrained belief, erroneous though it may be, youthful victims and their parents have regularly been paralyzed by fear and have remained silent about clergy sex abuse.”

Fr. Doyle reports that only approximately 35% of child/minor victims ever report the abuse, while the majority of victims are not able to report for 30 years after it takes place. The reason for this is that the victims are controlled by fear and shame – immobilized and paralyzed from speaking out.

On November 9, 2010, Fr. Doyle waded in on the Libby case after reviewing extensive documentation on his sexual abuse and on his petition for clemency.  He questions that the court would have been able in 1987 to understand the impact of the abuse without the massive amount of research that has been gathered since.

No Path for Healing:

Adolescent Psychiatry, a publication for the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry and Analytic Press, published a study in 2004 of the effects of clergy sexual abuse on male victims.  On average, male victims waited 18 years before seeking psychological or legal help.

Of 26 males studied, 85% were clinically depressed, 88% were involved with substance abuse, 55% showed symptoms of suicidality, 54% showed signs of loss of spirituality, 73% showed symptoms of sexual dysfunction, including confusion over sexual orientation.

Rage is a common emotion experienced by men and boys who have been molested by clergy.  Fantasies of killing their molesters, 50% of whom force themselves on their victims, routinely surfaced in the study. There is no path to healing for the victim.

Parents and relatives prefer to believe the church over the victims.  In 1987, at the time of Libby’s conviction, the church and the Vatican were spending fortunes defending themselves in court.  Children taught to believe that a priest is God’s emissary on earth attribute sexual abuse to a rejection by God and all other authority.

Libby, recently examined psychologically and found to be “well-adjusted, stable and ready for release,” in 2009 settled his civil suit against the Connecticut Archdiocese.

Jeff Libby is now serving a just sentence for his crime but is serving additional time for a priest who was not prosecuted.  For the State of Maine to fail to factor in so heinous a mitigating circumstance is to be complicit in the abuse.