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Court Rules Statements to Priest Not Protected by Penitent Privilege

Statements were made when minister was not acting as a spiritual advisor.

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Key point: Not all statements to clergy are protected by the clergy-penitent privilege. To be privileged, a statement must be made to a minister, in confidence, while acting in a professional capacity as a spiritual adviser.

• The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that statements made by a murder suspect to a minister were not protected by the clergy-penitent privilege from disclosure in court. A man approached a farmhouse one night while the father and 2 daughters were away. Only the mother and an 11-year-old son were at home, and the son had gone to bed. The man abducted the woman, raped her, and then killed her with a knife. A subsequent investigation revealed blood under the man's fingernails and smeared on his pants leg and shoes. He had a fresh scratch on his face and there was a large quantity of blood on the floor and passenger seat of his car. DNA tests showed that the blood ...

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  • September 1, 1995

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