Judge: Ross jurors won’t be testifying

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva sees no need for jurors from the first trial of homicide suspect Paul Aaron Ross to testify about their deliberations.

Ross, 41, is accused of killing Tina Miller on June 26, 2004, at Canoe Creek State Park.

He was convicted of first-degree murder in 2005 but ended up being sentenced to life without parole after the jurors could not agree on whether to impose the death penalty.

In the case of an impasse, the judge, by law, sentenced Ross to life.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court has ordered a retrial for Ross because his attorney, Thomas M. Dickey of Altoona, complained he didn’t have time to prepare his defense.

The potential of calling jurors to testify came up in Kopriva’s courtroom Monday during a hearing over whether the prosecution, led by Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio, can seek the death penalty during the retrial.

Consiglio announced late last year he intends to seek death, but Dickey and the defense’s death penalty attorney Thomas Hooper are challenging that. The defense argued Monday that the jury returned a “verdict” rejecting the death penalty, meaning it can’t be part of a retrial.

Consiglio said the issue can be placed before a new jury because Ross’ original jury did not return a verdict against the death penalty, but was simply deadlocked at 10-2 for death.

The jury returned a slip to the judge announcing it was at an impasse and then stated, “The verdict is life.”

Consiglio took the step of having two jurors from the first Ross trial come to the Monday hearing. He wanted to take their testimony about what occurred during deliberations. Dickey and Hooper strongly objected.

At Kopriva’s request, Dickey filed a brief against having the jurors testify, noting court rules bar jurors from testifying about deliberations except in cases when allegations that improper evidence was brought into the jury room.

The judge is working on an opinion concerning the application of the death penalty in the Ross case.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.