Judge agrees to outside jury for cop accused of killing Antwon Rose
Jurors from outside Allegheny County will hear the homicide case against a former East Pittsburgh police officer accused of killing an unarmed teen in 2018, a judge decided Monday.
Patrick Thomassey, an attorney for former officer Michael Rosfeld, argued in a Dec. 20 hearing that the extensive media coverage surrounding the June 19 shooting of Antwon Rose II during a traffic stop had made it impossible for his client to receive a fair trial.
The state Supreme Court will decide where the jury will be selected from.
Thomassey said that weeks of protests following Rose’s killing could create fear for potential jurors in Allegheny County.
Prosecutors argued against both a change of venue – moving the trial and local jury to another county – and a change of venire, which means bringing in an outside jury. Common Pleas Judge Alexander Bicket, however, ruled that a change of venire was in the interest of Rosfeld’s right to a speedy trial and impartial jury.
“This isn’t an entirely unknown procedure,” said University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris. “We saw this in reverse even in our own county a few years ago with Bill Cosby’s first trial in Philadelphia in which a jury was drawn from Allegheny County.”
Harris said prosecutors in the Rosfeld case shouldn’t be surprised, as there has been an immense amount of media coverage.
Bicket wrote that the outside jury could help the prosecution, saying that “the multitude of protests in the streets of Downtown Pittsburgh and elsewhere in Allegheny County may be a basis for potential juror bias that would and should concern the Commonwealth and its case as well.”
The judge also cited a poll of potential jurors he conducted over three days in December. Bicket asked those who showed up for jury duty whether they had heard, seen or read coverage of the case. Bicket said that out of 224 potential jurors polled, 81 percent said they were aware of the shooting.
Of those who had heard of the case, 40 percent said they had a fixed opinion. About half of those with a fixed opinion said they could set their feelings aside and fairly consider the evidence.
Other evidence cited by the defense included more than 300 pages of media coverage, including articles “in which several high-ranking public officials in Allegheny County commented about the incident publicly, often critical of the defendant and his actions in relation to the shooting,” Bicket wrote in his decision.
Rose was a passenger in a car suspected in a drive-by shooting in North Braddock minutes before the deadly shooting in East Pittsburgh.
As Rosfeld ordered the driver to the ground, Rose and backseat passenger, Zaijuan Hester, ran from the car. Rosfeld opened fire, authorities said.
The homicide charge was filed a week later.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .