Prosecutors in the hit-and-run trial of Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas O’Brien criticized a defense expert Thursday for changing his analysis of the deadly accident.
William Ernyei, an engineer and biomechanic called by O’Brien’s attorneys, testified Wednesday that Jim Reed was walking from the passenger’s side to the driver’s side of O’Brien’s vehicle, which would have made it more difficult for the bishop to see him during the nighttime accident.
But during cross-examination Thursday, Ernyei conceded he initially believed prosecutors correctly concluded that Reed had been walking from the driver’s side to the passenger side.
“You are part of the defense team, and your opinion has changed, correct?” asked prosecutor Mitch Rand.
O’Brien, 68, is charged with leaving the scene of the June 14 accident that killed Reed, 43. O’Brien has claimed he did not realize he hit a person.
Prosecutors’ contention that Reed began crossing from the driver’s side is part of their argument that O’Brien knew or should have known he hit a person.
O’Brien’s attorneys on Thursday called another expert, a pathologist who agreed that Reed was not as visible as prosecutors contend.
“The injuries to the pelvis and leg were consistent with someone walking from the passenger’s side of the car,” said Dr. Richard Trepeta.
If convicted, O’Brien could face probation to three years and nine months in prison. His arrest ended a 21-year career as head of the Phoenix diocese.
The accident occurred less than two weeks after prosecutors announced O’Brien had signed an immunity deal to spare him an indictment on obstruction charges for protecting priests accused of child molestation.