O'Brien Trial Jury Chosen, Will Be Sworn in Tuesday

By Joseph A. Reaves
The Arizona Republic
January 17, 2004

Twelve jurors were chosen Friday to hear testimony in the hit-and-run trial of resigned Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien, but the judge overseeing the case refused to release even the most basic information about them until they can be sworn in Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Judge Stephen A. Gerst of Maricopa County Superior Court said, "Anything can happen during a three-day holiday weekend." The judge also wants to do everything he can to protect the identity of the jurors, she said.

The jurors were chosen late Friday from a pool of 14 women and 11 men who were the last of 155 potential jurors questioned during the week.

Among the 25 finalists were three potential jurors educated in Catholic schools, five who had relatives connected to law enforcement, a retired Navy computer technician, a minister in the Church of Christ, the wife of a Baptist minister, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, a state insurance-fraud investigator, a grocery clerk, two Honeywell employees, a nurse, an auto-parts retailer and a stay-at-home mom.

Which of the 25 finalists were chosen remained a mystery because Gerst refused to release the juror numbers of those chosen.

Juror numbers are randomly generated by computer at the start of jury selection to protect the identity of potential jurors in open court.

During the screening process, potential jurors are asked a series of questions about their jobs, families, views on the legal system and other issues. Most answers are given in open court but are linked only to a juror's number, not his or her name.

Those same juror numbers are used during the trial as well to continue to protect privacy.

Gerst said he would swear in the jurors and begin hearing testimony on Tuesday. He said he expects the trial to last until at least Feb. 9 but warned it could go to Feb. 20.

O'Brien is charged with leaving the scene of a car-pedestrian accident that led to the death of 43-year-old Jim L. Reed on a central Phoenix street last June.

The bishop, who resigned as head of the Phoenix Diocese one day after his arrest, faces up to 45 months in prison if convicted.

Reach the reporter at or (602) 444-8125


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