HOLLIDAYSBURG - The death penalty trial for Paul Aaron Ross, accused of killing a young Hollidaysburg woman a decade ago, has been moved from October to November, giving prosecutors and defense attorneys more time to prepare expert reports that must be presented to each other for review.
Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva moved the trial date Friday after learning that prosecutors needed two more weeks to get a report ready to send to the defense. That delay led to a delay among the defense attorneys who stated they needed additional time to complete the filing of their reports.
Ross, 41, is charged in the death of Tina Miller, 26, in June 2004, her body being found at Canoe Creek State Park.
Ross was convicted of first-degree murder in 2005, but the jury could not decide if he should receive life in prison or death.
The jury's indecision required Kopriva to sentence Ross to life.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court ordered a retrial for Ross late last year, and Kopriva is attempting to complete the new trial this year.
She originally scheduled jury selection for the first week of October, but has moved it to Nov. 17.
The actual trial will begin Dec. 1 and is expected to last two weeks.
A lot of details were worked out during a Friday status conference as Kopriva heard from District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio and Assistant District Attorney Deanne Paul for the prosecution and attorneys Thomas M. Dickey and Thomas Hooper for the defense.
Hooper is helping Dickey prepare the defense and will be responsible for representing Ross if the case moves to a death penalty phase.
The defense in the death penalty phase of a homicide case presents mitigating circumstances that could cause a jury to reject the death penalty. This often includes psychological testimony about circumstances in the defendant's life.
Hooper said Friday he discovered a report prepared for the first trial by Dr. Mark Tabakman, a Maryland psychologist, in state police records.
Hooper said that police and the prosecution had no right to such a report at this stage of the case, and he had Kopriva order state police to turn the report over to the district attorney for keeping.
The DA and police are not supposed to even examine the Tabakman conclusions about Ross until the defense expert testifies.
Consiglio explained to the judge that the only reason police had the report was because it became public record when Tabakman testified in 2005.
Kopriva also instructed Consiglio to send the prosecution's trial exhibits, like a mold of Ross' teeth and a cast of some tire tracks at the scene to defense experts for examination.
Ross, until Friday, had not participated in any of the pretrial conferences, but he was included via videoconferencing.
He sat in a room at the State Correctional Institute at Manahoy and was able to view proceedings and talk to his attorneys through an Internet hookup.
The defendant will soon be brought to either the Blair County or Cambria County Prison so he can meet with Dickey and Hooper to prepare his defense.
Ross, who appears thinner than he was during his initial trial and whose hair is graying, told Kopriva he was satisfied with Dickey's representation.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.