A Superior Court judge on Friday ordered a Catholic priest and his attorney to turn over the diary kept by Hampden homicide victim Renee Henneberry Clark.
Justice William Anderson wrote in his two-page order that he would review the journal to determine whether any or all of it may be evidence in the case against the man accused of killing Henneberry Clark, or whether it is exempt under court rules that cover religious privilege.
“There is no way for the court to know whether the journal constitutes a confidential communication made to a member of the clergy who was acting as a spiritual adviser at the time of the communication,” Anderson wrote.
The judge issued his decision a day after holding a brief hearing at the Penobscot Judicial Center on the prosecution’s motion that it have access to the journal.
Philip Clark, 55, of Bangor is charged with intentional or knowing murder in the July shooting death of his sister-in-law Henneberry Clark, 49, at the Hampden apartment she shared with her estranged husband, Frank Clark, 56, Philip Clark’s brother. The accused killer and victim lived in adjacent apartments at 557 Kennebec Road.
The defendant, who is being held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail, has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Henneberry Clark’s priest, the Rev. Anthony Cipolle of Bangor, allegedly directed her to keep the diary as a spiritual journal. His attorney, Charles Gilbert of Bangor, objected to the judge reading it.
Gilbert said in an email late Friday that he was not surprised by Anderson’s decision. The attorney did not say when he would deliver the journal to the judge.
“The judge followed what the rule required, and having found as he did that the state met the threshold showing, the rule then required him to do what he did, namely order an in-camera inspection,” he said, using the legal term for the judge privately reviewing potential evidence. “My argument that the religious privilege is different than other evidentiary privileges because of constitutional considerations was duly noted by the court; in practice, those types of issues are seldom resolved at the trial court level, so I can’t say I’m surprised he didn’t overturn what the rule says he should do.”
It is unclear how Cipolle, 53, of Bangor obtained Henneberry Clark’s journal. He has told the BDN he is a possible witness in the murder case and has declined to comment.
Cipolle was involved in an “altercation” with Philip Clark the day before the homicide, according to court documents. Hampden Public Safety Director Joseph Rogers has confirmed that police were called to 557 Kennebec Road on July 11 but has declined to give details about that call.
Henneberry Clark’s body was found two days later.
Philip Clark’s attorney, David Bate of Bangor, and Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, who is prosecuting the case, declined to comment on the judge’s decision.