Dickey to seek out-of-county jury

The attorney representing Paul Aaron Ross, who is facing the death penalty for killing a Hollidaysburg woman in 2004, said he may ask that the case be heard by a jury from outside the county.

Attorney Thomas M. Dickey has tried many high profile cases and has, over the years, preferred they be heard by Blair County juries.

Dickey said Wednesday the Ross situation is different, and it may be appropriate for an outside jury to hear Ross’s retrial in the death of Tina S. Miller, 26.

Her body was found at Canoe Creek State Park on the morning of June 26, 2004.

Ross’s trial in 2005 resulted in a first degree murder conviction and life in prison, but a retrial was ordered by the Pennsylvania Superior Court because it concluded Dickey did not have enough time to prepare his defense, and because of improper testimony from former Ross girlfriends that focused on his past mistreatment of women.

The Ross case has received a great deal of publicity, particularly in the last two two-and-a-half years, as the prosecution and defense clashed repeatedly over the propriety of a retrial.

Dickey, when contacted about the decision of District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio to seek the death penalty, said he wasn’t surprised, but he stated, “We’ll definitely be asking for a change of venue.”

Blair County judges as a rule attempt to select a local jury, but if it becomes difficult to seat an impartial panel, the judges have ordered the jury be selected in another county.

Another option would be to move the trial to another county.

Dickey on Wednesday made several other points.

He said he intended to place the emphasis on preparation for the second Ross trial. He complained in post trial motions filed in the Ross case after the 2005 trial he did not have time to interview expert witnesses and to prepare his defense.

The first thing he intends to do is go through the process of discovery, a complete examination of all the evidence that will be used against Ross in his retrial.

From that review, he will decide what experts he might need.

“We have to look at discovery and then get to work,” he said.

Dickey also intends to challenge the use of the death penalty, but he said the prosecution can seek death under the law at this point.

The jury in Ross during the first trial split on whether Ross should receive life or death which meant that the trial judge, President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva, was required to impose life.

Because the decision for life was not unanimous, Dickey said, the DA can once again seek the death sentence.

But, Dickey explained, the law often changes, and he intends to oppose the use of the death penalty, so that if a change occurs on this point, his protest will be on the record.

As to when he will be ready for trial, Dickey would only say, “There’s a long way to go.”

Both sides are expected to have a better feel for a trial date after a status conference with a judge on Feb. 27.