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Slow progress in Ross jury selection

Ross

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The review of potential jurors to hear first-degree murder and related charges against a Hollidaysburg area man progressed slowly Wednesday and into the evening hours at the Blair County Courthouse.

“As you’ve figured out, we’re not just picking 12 jurors out of a hat,” defense attorney Thomas M. Dickey told a prospective juror who had already answered questions for about a half hour.

The juror-by-juror review, scheduled to continue today and Friday, is expected to produce a jury panel in the capital case against Paul Aaron Ross, accused of murdering 26-year-old Tina S. Miller of Hollidaysburg in 2004.

President Judge Elizabeth Doyle, who acknowledged the slow pace of Wednesday’s reviews, opted to keep court in session beyond 6 p.m. to question the remaining five jurors who had been waiting since mid-afternoon.

The judge also suggested at one point that the questioning of jurors could be extended into Saturday if needed. The goal is to be ready for trial to start Monday.

Of the nearly 25 prospective jurors questioned Wednesday morning and afternoon, only one was deemed acceptable. Others were dismissed for a mix of reasons, including statements showing bias.

“I just don’t believe our justice system does the best for everybody,” a woman said in response to a question Doyle asked.

Another woman said she thought she could fairly evaluate the evidence in the trial, but imposing a death sentence would cause concern.

“I think I would have a problem feeling like I was responsible for the death of anybody,” she said.

Retired District Attorney Richard Consiglio, lead prosecutor in the case, repeatedly asked prospective jurors about their ability to follow through with considering and imposing the death penalty.

“It shouldn’t be a problem,” a male juror told him.

“I think it’s a necessary evil, a part of our society,” a woman said in response to Consiglio’s question.

Dickey also asked jurors about the ability to make up their own minds.

“If every other juror is voting guilty, could you hold your own, even if being outvoted 11-to-1?” Dickey asked one of the prospective jurors.

“Yes, I think that’s what I’m supposed to do,” the juror responded.

Both the prosecution and the defense attorneys have the option of asking Doyle, for any reason, to dismiss a prospective juror from being considered for the panel.

If she declines, then prosecutors and the defense can each exercise their option to dismiss up to 20 jurors.

Ross, an inmate at the Blair County Prison, is being transported daily to the courthouse for pretrial proceedings. During Wednesday’s review of prospective jurors, he regularly conversed with Dickey and fellow defense attorney Thomas Hooper.

Ross, now 48, was 32 years old when he was arrested on June 27, 2004, the day Miller’s body was found partly submerged in the water at Canoe Creek State Park. The pair reportedly met the night before at a Hollidaysburg bar.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.

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