HOLLIDAYSBURG - The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will be asked to restore the first-degree murder conviction of Paul Aaron Ross, 40, who was sentenced nearly seven years ago to life for the murder of a Hollidaysburg woman at Canoe Creek State Park.
Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio said he is putting together an appeal request that must be submitted for review to the state's highest court next month.
Consiglio said he and his staff disagree with the 5-4 decision on Oct. 10 by state Superior Court to vacate the conviction and sentence.
The new trial was granted because Ross's attorney, Thomas M. Dickey, did not have enough time to prepare Ross' defense in 2005 and also because testimony from three woman, who claimed they were physically and sexually abused by Ross, was permitted into the trial.
The so-called "bad acts" from Ross' past were permitted by Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva, who said Ross' alleged incidents of violence toward women showed motive and intent to kill Tina Miller, 26, last seen with Ross at Canoe Creek just after midnight on June 27, 2004.
Her partially nude and beaten body was found face down in Canoe Lake the next morning.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Saralee Funke ruled that Miller died from a combination of drowning and strangulation.
Art Heinz, a spokesman for the state Supreme Court, said about 2,500 cases are referred to the court for review each year, but only between 7 and 10 percent are accepted.
Consiglio said he disagrees with the Superior Court's conclusion that Dickey did not have enough time to prepare his case. Dickey became the attorney for Ross only a couple of weeks before the scheduled start of the trial.
On several occasions, Dickey requested a continuance so that he could confer with three defense experts.
Kopriva concluded the defense did have enough time, a decision with which five members of the court disagreed, concluding "that the trial court manifestly abused its discretion in refusing to grant Ross a continuance to permit his newly retained private counsel the opportunity to prepare for trial."
Consiglio said the Superior Court did not fully consider the judge's reasons for denying the continuance.
On the "bad acts" issue, Consiglio will also argue that the Superior Court did not fully consider the similarities between incidents of violence against the former girlfriends and Miller.