Phelps said Wednesday there is often tension between religious privilege and the obligation to report criminal behavior, but the New Hampshire law worked to ensure justice.
“The trial judge fulfilled his responsibility in ruling that information shared in private should be part of the case against Ernest Willis, and the information helped lead to a conviction,” Phelps said in a statement. He also lamented that police did not act promptly on his child abuse report.
Concord police say they were forced to shelve the case when they couldn’t locate the girl to interview her. They finally learned her married name from websites critical of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement and reached her in Arizona, where she now lives.
Phelps is now senior pastor at Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Indianapolis.
The court on Wednesday also rejected Willis’ claims that jurors should not have heard portions of a police interview with him in May 2010, in which a detective stated that Anderson had no reason to lie in her version of events. The court ruled there is a difference between a police officer giving an opinion while testifying at trial and offering an opinion during an interrogation.
It ruled that it was a mistake for the trial court to permit jurors to hear that portion of the police interview, which referenced an anonymous report to child welfare officials about the sexual assaults, but said the judge’s instruction to the jury to not accept the statements as true rendered the error harmless.