Lawyers for Catholic Bishop Seek Retrial

Associated Press, carried in Sun Herald [Phoenix AZ]
Downloaded March 3, 2004

PHOENIX - Lawyers for Catholic Bishop Thomas O'Brien asked a judge to reverse his felony hit-and-run conviction and grant him a new trial.

O'Brien was found guilty two weeks ago of leaving the scene after killing a jaywalker with his car. He is believed to be the first U.S. Roman Catholic bishop convicted of a felony.

He resigned as leader of the Diocese of Phoenix in June after he was charged in the accident that killed Jim Reed, 43. O'Brien said he didn't realize he had hit a person, and didn't report the accident to police.

Jurors said they focused on the legal concept that a reasonable driver should have known he had hit another person.

In asking for a new trial, O'Brien's attorneys said in court papers that the judge gave jurors erroneous instructions for their deliberations. The attorneys also faulted the judge for using the reasonable person standard.

Defense attorney Tom Henze didn't return a call late Tuesday.

Requests for new trials are regarded as necessary steps for appeals. "It was not unanticipated," prosecutor Rick Romley said. "This is a normal practice in all trials."


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