HOLLIDAYSBURG – Efforts to prepare for a two-week trial against the 26-year-old Hollidaysburg woman in 2004 are expected to continue until the end of the week in Blair County Court.
While prospective jurors were working in Courtroom 1 on Monday to fill out lengthy questionnaires related to the pending trial of Paul Aaron Ross following Tina S. Miller’s death, President Judge Elizabeth Doyle and attorneys met in Courtroom 4 to receive the expected testimony, Photos, drawings and documents to review videos that prosecutors want to present during the trial.
Doyle and the attorneys are expected to continue trial prep work in court today while additional invited jurors work on their questionnaires.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the court would have called a large group of jurors to a pending murder trial in the courthouse.
Due to the pandemic, jurors in four groups – about 200 total – have been subpoenaed to be considered for a panel of 12 plus four alternates who will undertake to fairly evaluate the evidence against Ross.
The completed questionnaires – with information the jurors provide about themselves and what they know about Ross’ case – will be copied and distributed to lawyers, who will have the opportunity to question the jurors further starting Wednesday. The goal is to get the panel in place before the end of the week so the process can continue next week.
While addressing the jury on Monday, Doyle informed them that if they get a first-degree murder conviction as members of a jury, the jury will go into sentence to consider imposing a life imprisonment or a death sentence. This punitive phase will offer an opportunity to assess the aggravating and attenuating circumstances in the decision-making process.
The judge also admitted that there is no penalty period if the jury acquitted the accused of first degree murder.
During Monday’s review of pending court judgments and evidence, senior prosecutor and retired district attorney Richard Consiglio said he will be required to produce around 50 witnesses during the upcoming trial.
His witness list includes several state forces involved in the murder investigation that developed after Miller’s body was found on June 27, 2004, partially submerged in water in Canoe Creek State Park.
Also on the witness list are those who saw Miller and Ross in the hours leading up to the death of 26-year-old Miller. An autopsy report showed that she died of strangulation and drowning.
During the review of the pending court judgments and evidence, defense attorneys Thomas M. Dickey and Thomas Hooper raised several objections that Doyle raised or is expected to raise later.
The judge also said the efforts to review evidence and objections before the trial should shorten the time it would otherwise take during the trial to clear the differences.
The judge who instructed attorneys to avoid discussing evidence outside of the court also told Consiglio and Dickey on Monday that their loud arguments must be limited to pre-trial trials.
“I am now warning the lawyers that I will not tolerate yelling in front of the jury.” said the judge.
The mirror clerk is Kay Stephens at 814-946-7456.
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