Judge Considers Mistrial Motion In Scientology Case
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ A woman’s statements after she was awarded $39 million in a judgment against the Church of Scientology conflicted with her testimony in the case, attorneys said Monday in arguing for a mistrial.
Attorneys for the Church of Scientology said Julie Christofferson Titchbourne’s statements in magazine and newspaper articles differed from her testimony about how she joined the group and how she was ″deprogrammed ″ after she left it in 1976.
″She has misused and abused the judicial system,″ attorney Earle Cooley said. ″... With the $39 million verdict, she’s out there laughing at us all.″
Multnomah County Circuit Judge Donald Londer said he would rule Tuesday on the mistrial motion.
Ms. Titchbourne, 27, of Portland, alleged the group defrauded her by claiming it could raise her intellegence, correct her weak eyesight and improve her creativity when she joined in 1975. She also charged that it misrepresented the background of its reclusive founder, science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard.
Her attorney, Garry McMurry, said it was ″a case of common-law fraud, of deceit,″ and not one of religious persecution as the Scientologists contend.
Monday’s hearing was the second on the defense motion for a mistrial since the verdict was returned May 17. Londer said he allowed the additional hearing in light of new material submitted to him by both sides. He has not yet signed the judgment, pending his ruling on the mistrial motion.
After the jury returned its judgment, Scientologists from around the world staged daily rallies, news conferences and concerts in Portland to protest the verdict. The events sometimes featured celebrity Scientologists, including actor John Travolta and jazz pianist Chick Corea.
Corea was among the dozens of Scientologists who packed the courtroom Monday.
McMurry dismissed Cooley’s contention that Ms. Titchbourne had contradicted herself in the news media. ″What goes on in the courtroom is all that matters,″ he said.
Cooley said Ms. Titchbourne’s attorneys ridiculed Scientologists’ beliefs during the 11-week trial, prejudicing jurors and persuading them to punish the group with a large verdict. The verdict also bore no relationship to the actual damages claimed, he said.
Cooley said that if the judge allows the judgment to stand he will set a precedent that will lead to the destruction of religion.
″If you sign that judgment it means one thing - religion can be punished,″ added Harry Manion, another defense attorney.