CHATHAM, N.J. (RNS) Nearly two years after the Rev. Edward Hinds was found lying in a pool of blood in the rectory of St. Patrick Church, the troubled janitor charged in his murder is facing trial this week.
Jose Feliciano, 66, of Easton, Pa., the church’s former custodian, is accused of murder in the death of the popular 61-year-old priest. Jury selection was expected to be completed Monday (Oct. 17), with opening statements to follow.

During juror screening, Superior Court Judge Thomas Manahan of Morristown refused to allow questions requested by Feliciano’s defense attorney about sexual impropriety, including whether potential jurors would be biased “if there is an allegation of sexual activity by a Roman Catholic priest.”

Instead, Manahan agreed to ask just one general question about the issue, without saying it might be involved in this case. Jurors were asked whether the sexual abuse cases involving priests “that have been reported in recent years” would prevent them from being fair and impartial.

In a video-recorded statement that will be allowed in the trial, Feliciano admitted he stabbed Hinds, but he said he did it during an argument after the priest threatened to fire him for ending a four-year sexual affair.

Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi contends Feliciano stabbed Hinds because the priest was planning to fire him after learning he was a fugitive from a 1988 Pennsylvania charge of indecent assault on a 7-year-old girl.

(Ben Horowitz writes for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.)

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