Prosecution: Ross defense had time to prepare

HOLLIDAYSBURG – The prosecution in the Paul Aaron Ross homicide case tried to show Monday that Ross’ attorney in his 2005 trial had enough time to prepare his defense.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court has ordered a new trial for Ross in the murder of Tina S. Miller, 26, of Hollidaysburg, whose battered body was found partially submerged in the lake at Canoe Creek State Park on the morning of June 27, 2004.

The prosecution, led by District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio and Assistant District Attorney Deanne Paul, has asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to review the Superior Court decision and to uphold Ross’s conviction and sentence.

The primary reason for a new trial is that Thomas M. Dickey, Ross’s attorney, convinced the Superior Court he didn’t have time to properly prepare his defense, noting that his experts, a forensic pathologist, and Levine, a bite mark expert, were not ready for trial.

Consiglio presented telephone testimony from an Albany, N.Y., forensic odontologist, Dr. Lowell Levine, who indicated he was prepared when he took the witness stand in the lengthy homicide trial.

Ross, now 40, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He watched Monday’s proceedings from the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy.

Dickey asked for a stay of the hearing, pointing out that Ross should be brought to Blair County and be present in the courtroom for the hearings. But Ross, who discussed his case with Dickey prior to the beginning of the late afternoon hearing, told Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva it was fine with him to participate via videoconferencing.

Ross spoke clearly and politely during the hearing when questioned by Kopriva.

Because Kopriva had other appointments Monday afternoon, she said another hearing on the Ross case would be scheduled during the next two weeks.

The primary reason for a new trial is that Dickey convinced the Superior Court he didn’t have time to properly prepare his defense, noting that his experts, a forensic pathologist, and Levine were not ready for trial.

In an unusual step, Kopriva reopened the case so that the Supreme Court, in making its decision whether to review the Superior decision, has as its disposal testimony showing the defense had to time prepare its case.

Consiglio intends to present testimony showing that Dickey told Kopriva he was prepared for trial. Dickey later changed his mind and asked for a delay, which Kopriva denied.

Levine testified by telephone, confirming that he was a witness for Ross. He also confirmed by reviewing the bill he sent the defense that he was presented material in the case as early as June 2005. The case was tried in late October.

Dickey pointed out that Levine stated in a letter that he was still receiving materials for review within days of the start of the trial.

During the trial, Levine was called to testify about an apparent bite mark on the victim.

The prosecution odontologist, Dr. Dennis Asen of Philadelphia, said the mark found on the body was “highly consistent, very highly consistent” with Ross’s bite.

Levine testified for the defense that he could not exclude Ross as the person who left the mark, but he could not identify it as a mark left by Ross.

Dickey has already filed an appeal with the Superior Court in opposition to Kopriva’s decision to reopen the record.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.