Earlier this week former Tampa Bay area priest Robert Schaeufele was found not guilty of capital sexual battery in an emotion-and-controversy-charged trial. The jurors all looked shaken after the verdict and none were immediately available for comment. Schaeufele now awaits trials on three more capital sexual battery charges.
The wrenching verdict underscores one aspect of our criminal justice system that we must never confuse. Too often jury verdicts of “not guilty” are interchanged and interpreted as “innocent.”
“Not guilty” is a qualified legal term. It means an absence of provable guilt based on a legal threshold and rules of evidence. Innocence isn’t a technicality. It’s a state, as in sinless, untainted, pure.
In his first trial, Schaeufele was found “not guilty.” But make no mistake; there is nothing “innocent” about a priest administering an enema to a young boy.