County sending more bite-mark records to court
DA supplementing record as Superior Court evaluates evidence in Ross murder retrial
HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County is forwarding two more court documents to the state Superior Court for use in evaluating the validity of bite-mark evidence in the pending murder retrial of Paul Aaron Ross, charged with killing a Hollidaysburg woman in 2004.
Retired Senior Judge Jolene G. Kopriva signed an order Tuesday allowing Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio to supplement the record with two legal documents he previously rendered to Kopriva for consideration.
Because Consiglio’s documents weren’t docketed in the county prothonotary’s office, they weren’t among the records the prothonotary’s office forwarded in February to the state Superior Court.
Once the records are forwarded and Consiglio meets a pending Sept. 3 deadline for submission of a legal brief to the Superior Court, the case could be in a position to move a step closer to being retried in county court.
Ross was convicted in 2005 of first-degree murder in the death of Tina S. Miller, 26, Hollidaysburg, whose body was found at Canoe Creek State Park on the morning of June 26, 2004. During the 2005 trial, an Allentown ordontologist testified that a bite mark on Miller’s body was “very highly consistent” with Ross’ bite, but he also said he couldn’t say that Ross made it.
In response to a post-trial appeals, the state Superior Court ruled in 2011 that Ross deserved a new trial because defense attorney Thomas M. Dickey lacked sufficient time to prepare a defense and because “prior bad acts” testimony from Ross’ former girlfriends was improperly admitted as trial evidence.
Neither Dickey, who remains Ross’ defense attorney, or defense attorney Thomas Hooper objected Tuesday to Consiglio’s request for supplementing the record.
The documents submitted to Kopriva, which remained in her court files, were removed for duplication, with the judge’s direction that copies be made available to Dickey and Hooper.
Kopriva, who had Consiglio’s documents available for her use, declined in late 2017 to convene a Frye hearing to examine the science behind bite mark evidence, a challenge Dickey and Hooper launched with support from attorneys representing the Innocence Project, an organization seeking to clear wrongly-convicted defendants.
But at the same time as when she declined a Frye hearing, Kopriva certified the matter for interlocutory or pretrial appeal. In May 2018, the state Superior Court rejected Kopriva’s request, prompting an appeal to the state Supreme Court. In November 2018, the state Supreme Court remanded the matter to the Superior Court for review.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.