A jury is deliberating the case of Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien, 68, who is charged with “leaving the scene of a serious injury or fatal accident” that claimed the life of a pedestrian on. The bishop, who resigned as head of the Phoenix Diocese a day after his arrest, faces up to 45 months in prison if convicted, says the Arizona Republic.
Before the 8-member jury began deliberations, defense attorney Tom Henze conceded to jurors some people “might not like” O’Brien or “might like him better” if had done things differently. “This isn’t a popularity contest,” Henze said. “This is serious stuff. This is about whether or not we are going to make someone a criminal or not.”
O’Brien swore during the trial that he never saw the pedestrian and never thought that he may have hit someone. Nothing in the law, Henze said, required the bishop to go back and investigate what shattered his windshield unless a “reasonable person” had reason to believe he had hurt someone. “You may not like the law,” Henze said. “As a matter of social policy, it might be a good idea to go back and investigate. But that isn’t the law. We make him a criminal, yes or no, on the law alone. This is not a trial about what is socially right. This is a trial about what is legal.”
Prosecutor Anthony Novitsky accused Henze of “making excuses” for O’Brien and being a “mouthpiece” for the bishop, who, during his two days of testimony in the trial, was repeatedly at a loss to explain many of his actions. “There’s a lot the defendant can’t account for,” Novitsky said. The prosecutor urged jurors to look at everything the bishop did the night of the accident and during the next 36 hours. Taken as a whole, Novitsky said, O’Brien’s behavior showed a pattern of guilt.