Juror in Michael Rosfeld case excused for illness, alternate will fill spot
A juror in the upcoming homicide trial against former police officer Michael Rosfeld has been excused from jury duty, officials said.
Juror No. 1, a 66-year-old white man, has been excused because of an illness, according to Stacey Witalec, communications director for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.
The man was a retired railroad worker who now rents out his home as an Airbnb.
He will be replaced by the first alternate juror, a 45-year-old white man who works in distribution.
The first alternate told attorneys at jury selection in Dauphin County on Wednesday that he’d never had a bad experience with a police officer.
Jurors will be bused in to Pittsburgh on Monday, and the trial is set to begin Tuesday morning. Jurors will be sequestered, meaning they will stay in Pittsburgh for the duration of the trial. They are not to read or watch any news regarding the case.
Rosfeld, a former East Pittsburgh officer, is charged in the June 19 killing of 17-year-old Antwon Rose as he fled a felony traffic stop in East Pittsburgh. Rose was black and unarmed. Rosfeld is white.
Despite the change, the jury makeup remains the same: Six men and six women, and three of the 12 are African-American.
Legal experts believe the demographics of the jury will be less important than perhaps thought.
“This is an unusual case — it’s a case in which I think you can throw a lot of demographics out the window,” said Bruce Antkowiak, chair of the criminology department at Saint Vincent College.
Rather than demographics, he said, a verdict will depend upon each juror’s background.
“This is really a case where the individual juror’s own background, their capacity to say, ‘I’m going to look at this case without any preconceived disposition’ comes into play,” he said.
Daniel Herbert, a police officer-turned attorney, represented former Chicago officer Jason Van Dyke, who was eventually convicted of second-degree murder in the case of Laquan McDonald. McDonald was armed with a folding knife and was walking away from police when Van Dyke shot the 17-year-old 16 times.
He said it’s “virtually impossible” to find a truly fair and impartial jury in police shootings.
“The biggest thing we were trying to get: Somebody that was a leader and that we felt could stand up to some pressure and rule based on evidence and not what happened outside the courtroom,” Herbert said.