Prosecution Rests in O'Brien Case
Graphic Photos Tell Grisly Story
By Joseph A. Reaves
The Arizona Republic [Phoenix AZ]
February 3, 2004
Prosecutors rested their case Monday in the hit-and-run trial of Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien with testimony and autopsy photos so gruesome that three relatives of the man killed in the accident left the courtroom in tears.
Dr. Philip Keen, chief medical examiner for Maricopa County, spent two hours on the witness stand using color photographs and a laser pointer to highlight nearly two dozen wounds that covered the victim's body from head to ankle.
Keen was the second-to-last witness the prosecution put on the stand. The last was a former police officer and accident reconstructionist who testified the June 14 crash that killed pedestrian Jim L. Reed would have been hard to ignore because it created "a loud noise."
O'Brien is charged with "leaving the scene of a serious injury or fatal accident" but insists he is innocent because he never knew he hit a person.
The defense today will ask Judge Stephen A. Gerst of Maricopa County Superior Court for a directed verdict in O'Brien's favor on grounds prosecutors have failed to prove their case.
If, as expected, that routine request is denied, the defense is scheduled to begin presenting witnesses Wednesday.
Much of Keen's testimony dealt with graphic descriptions of the grave injuries Reed suffered when he was struck, first by the bishop's car, then by another vehicle.
At least one member of Reed's family drew a loud breath and another spectator moaned when the first autopsy photos were flashed on a 6-foot screen in the courtroom. Several of the photos showed disturbing wounds to Reed's head, chest, abdomen, arms and back.
Prosecutor Anthony Novitsky did his best to keep the photographs on the screen as briefly as possible, but the images were so graphic that one by one, three of Reed's relatives were overcome with grief and left the courtroom sobbing and shaking.
From an evidence standpoint, the most important photographs of the day were among the least grisly. They were X-rays of leg fractures.
One showed both bones of Reed's right leg shattered about 12 inches from his heel. Another showed a less-severe break on the small bone of his left leg near the knee.
Keen told jurors the X-rays convinced him that Reed was struck on the back of his right leg as he was walking north to south. The direction Reed was walking is important. He was struck on the far right side of O'Brien's car. Prosecutors and several witnesses said Reed was jaywalking at an angle from north to south on a path that would have taken him across the front of O'Brien's car. The defense contends Reed was going south to north, and O'Brien never saw him.
Defense attorney Patrick J. McGroder focused on the break in Reed's left leg, which the medical examiner originally failed to see.
Keen admitted he overlooked the break at first and testified he still was unable to determine what caused it. But he said he doubted McGroder's contention that the fracture indicated Reed was walking in the opposite direction.
"You would expect to see more damage for that kind of velocity," Keen said, reiterating that he thought the severe damage to the right leg indicated the point of impact with the bishop's car.
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