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Arizona bishop defends actions at hit and run trial

Testifying on the witness stand at his hit-and-run trial, retired Bishop Thomas O'Brien of Phoenix explained that, even after he heard police were looking for him, he did not think he had really hit and killed a pedestrian.

In more than five hours of testimony earlier this week, Bishop O'Brien described his actions after his car struck 42-year-old Jim Reed as Reed was crossing a dark street in midblock in June.

In response to repeated questions from both defence and prosecuting attorneys, he said he didn't see Reed either before or after the collision, and that he had no idea what had hit his windshield, causing a loud crash and leaving a clearly visible dent in it.

Seeing no obvious cause for the broken windshield, Bishop O'Brien said he drove on to his house, five minutes away, and parked the car in his garage. There, he looked at the damage, but didn't study it closely, he said. It wasn't until later that night that he considered what might have caused the damage, the bishop said, and concluded it might have been a rock or perhaps a dog.

The testimony, broadcast live on local television and on the Internet, was the first time Bishop O'Brien has spoken in public about the accident. He was arrested on 16 June by Phoenix police, after they traced a licence plate number provided by witnesses. Bishop O'Brien, 68, resigned as head of the Phoenix Diocese two days later.

He is charged with leaving the scene of a serious or fatal accident. If convicted, he could receive a sentence ranging from probation to a maximum of three years and nine months in prison.


Bishop O'Brien testifies about his actions after fatal accident (Catholic News Service 10/2/04)

Lawyer Tries to Explain Bishop's Thinking (Associated Press/Guardian 12/2/04)
US ex-bishop denies hit-and-run (BBC 10/2/04)
Diocese of Phoenix | Monsignor Moyer Issues Statement Regarding Fatal Accident (16/6/03) | Statement from Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien (18/6/03)

13 Feb 2004