Attorneys propose jury questions for Michael Rosfeld trial
Prosecutors and defense attorneys in the homicide case against former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld submitted 79 questions between them that they want potential jurors to answer during jury selection next week.
Selection in the case is scheduled to begin March 12 in Dauphin County as the result of a successful defense motion for a change of venire to bring in a jury from another county because of pretrial publicity in Allegheny County.
Rosfeld’s attorney, Patrick Thomassey, argued late last year for the change of venire because of extensive media coverage surrounding the June 19 shooting of Antwon Rose II.
The questions include ones about potential jurors’ military or law enforcement background, their feelings on handguns and police use of deadly force, and their hobbies and media consumption. The process, referred to as voir dire, is meant to ensure an impartial jury.
Chief Trial Deputy Daniel Fitzsimmons wants to know what social media platforms jurors use, what books and magazines they like to read, whether they are members of any clubs, and if they know that shows such as “CSI” are dramatizations.
Both sides proposed extensive questioning of potential jurors’ feelings toward police.
“Do you believe that there are circumstances under which police officers or other public officials should not have to obey the law?” asks one question proposed by prosecutors.
Other questions proposed by prosecutors include, “Do you believe that if a person disobeys a police officer that he deserves what he gets?” and “In general, for any reason, would you have difficulty sitting in judgment of a police officer?”
Thomassey’s questions addressed similar issues.
“Do you believe that a police officer should desist from an arrest if the suspect flees?” asks one proposed by the defense.
Another question proposed by the defense: “Do you feel that a police officer is only justified in using deadly force when deadly force has been used on them?”
Rosfeld is accused of shooting and killing the 17-year-old Rose as he ran from a felony traffic stop in East Pittsburgh.
Rose was a passenger in a car suspected in a drive-by shooting minutes earlier in nearby North Braddock. Police said the car had gunshot damage to its rear window, likely from the earlier shooting. As Rosfeld ordered the driver to the ground, Rose and backseat passenger Zaijuan Hester ran, authorities said. Hester was later arrested.
Common Pleas Judge Alexander Bicket has scheduled a status conference for Tuesday regarding what Thomassey said is evidence that prosecutors withheld for months. He said the evidence contradicts the prosecutors’ narrative that Hester was the drive-by shooter.
According to paperwork attached to the motion filed Friday by Thomassey, a second man was struck by gunfire in the North Braddock drive-by shooting.
The paperwork said state police did not interview William Ross until July 19. He told police he was at Fa’s Market when he noticed a gold car pull toward the market and saw Rose in the front passenger seat. He told police he heard someone say, “Is that him?” according to the paperwork.
“Ross said that after hearing, ‘Is that him?’ he observed a black gun come out of the back passenger window,” and the shooter had a black hoodie over his head, police wrote. “He said the rear passenger just started shooting at him,” the paperwork said.
Police wrote that Ross said he ran toward the back of the market but could feel a burning in his right leg. He said the shooting was a result of a “beef” between people from Braddock and Rankin, and that he is from Braddock.
He did not identify a shooter, but said he’d seen Rose in the front seat.
Ross allegedly made similar statements to a state police trooper guarding his hospital room in January after he was involved in a car crash in Greene County on Jan. 16. The trooper wrote that Ross made remarks regarding a bullet in his right leg and said he’d been shot by Rose.
“The beef was between me and him, that car came by, he shot, I ran to the store, I didn’t report it,” Ross allegedly told the trooper. “Five minutes later, he was dead.”
Ross said only that the “beef” was between he and Rose rather than people from Braddock and Rankin.
Thomassey alleged in his filing that the state police report was withheld, and he said the trooper involved in the Jan. 16 report called him three weeks later to tell him about the interaction with Ross. He said he’d turned the report over to Allegheny County Police.
Thomassey said prosecutors did not provide him the report until Feb. 29, “some 40 days after its preparation and 21 days prior to the commencement of trial.” He requested the hearing to determine whether prosecutors have more discovery material they’ve not yet turned over.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .