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Suspect in LA Bishop O’Connell’s killing pleads not guilty

Mourners visit Bishop David O'Connell's coffin

Francine Orr | POOL | AFP

John Burger - published on 03/24/23

Carlos Medina held on $2 million bail. Next hearing scheduled for May 17.

The suspect in the death of Los Angeles Bishop David O’Connell has pleaded not guilty in court, even though he is said to have admitted to killing the beloved LA priest. 

Carlos Medina, 61, entered his plea during a Wednesday arraignment at Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles. 

Medina is the husband of Bishop O’Connell’s housekeeper. He was arrested February 20 following a brief standoff in the wake of the auxiliary bishop’s killing in his Hacienda Heights home the day before.

Medina was charged with one felony count of murder. Superior Court Judge Armenui Amy Ashvanian ordered that Medina remain in jail in lieu of $2 million bail. His next scheduled court appearance is May 17, when a hearing will be set to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to require him to stand trial, Angelus News, a publication of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, reported

The defense team is “in the early stages of the investigation,” Medina’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Pedro Cortes, said in a statement, according to the East Bay Times. Cortes said “it would be premature to comment on the merits of the case.”

Hope for justice and healing

Medina faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted. In addition to murder, he is charged with a special allegation that he personally used a firearm.

During a press conference on Feb. 22, District Attorney George Gascón said that Medina had admitted to shooting O’Connell. Investigators are still probing possible motives.

In a statement, the archdiocese said the arraignment “marks a next step in the legal process with the hopes of bringing about justice and healing from this terrible tragedy.”

“We appreciate the diligent efforts of all involved in these proceedings,” the statement said. “We have been extremely moved by the tremendous outpouring of prayers and support from throughout our Archdiocese, across the nation and around the world. It is truly a testament to Bishop David O’Connell’s ministry to bring God’s loving mercy to all, especially those most in need.”

Holy bishop and beloved friend

The Catholic Church in Los Angeles was rocked by the killing, and there’s been a steady outpouring of admiration for the late bishop, a native of Ireland who came to be known as a great advocate for the poor and marginalized.

He not only advocated for the humane treatment of immigrants, but he often took a personal interest in particular cases, such as paying for a newcomer family’s first month’s rent.

When migrant unaccompanied children were stranded in the U.S. several years ago, Bishop O’Connell worked with the interdiocesan Southern California Task Force on Immigration that he himself had started and the Catholic Education Foundation to enroll kids into local Catholic schools. He often quietly paid the tuition himself.

“He always said yes,” Linda Dakin-Grimm, an immigration lawyer who worked closely with O’Connell on the task force, told Angelus. “I have seen him sit and talk and pray with people at shelters at the border who had been deported and had little reason for hope. He paid rent for immigrant families in LA who were not allowed to work and were in distress.”

The archbishop of Los Angeles, José H. Gomez, was particularly affected by the bishop’s death. He broke down in tears while speaking at a news conference just days after the killing.

“This has been a time of mourning for the family of God here in Los Angeles, as we have lost a beloved friend, Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell,” Archbishop Gomez, himself an immigrant from Mexico, wrote recently. “He was a holy priest and bishop and a man of peace. And we will miss him.”

Gomez quipped that his late auxiliary bishop “is still the only person I have ever known who could speak fluent Spanish with an Irish accent.”

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