Rosfeld acquittal leaves a relieved wife in tears and a mother indignant
The two women in the first row of the courtroom late Friday waited nine months to get there, and their reactions when the jury read the verdict told separate tales of months-long heartache.
One collapsed from her chair – sobbing.
The other remained still – no tears.
Michelle Rosfeld doubled over at the words, weeping. Her husband’s defense attorney, Patrick Thomassey, reached out across the railing to grasp her hand. Feet away at the defense table in courtroom 323 of the Allegheny County Courthouse, her husband, Michael Rosfeld, had just been acquitted of homicide.
Less than 10 seats away, Michelle Kenney stayed still. No tears, she told her daughter.
“Don’t you cry,” she said. “Don’t you waste none on them. Don’t you give them that. They took everything.”
Everything was her son, 17-year-old Antwon Rose II. He was shot and killed last June by then-Officer Rosfeld.
A jury Friday ruled the killing was justified.
Both families had been rushed to the courtroom for the verdict. It took the jury less than four hours to decide. Minutes later, they were rushed from the courthouse just as quickly — first the Rosfeld family and then Rose’s family.
Common Pleas Judge Alexander Bicket ordered Rosfeld released from his months-long electronic monitoring immediately.
Jurors weighed five options: not guilty, first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.
The foreman, a 71-year-old black man, read the verdict.
Thomassey said he didn’t need the jury to be polled. Deputy District Attorney Daniel Fitzsimmons said he did. None of the 12 wavered, and all kept their eyes on the judge.
Thomassey was quick to point out that it was not an all-white jury and contended that the case had nothing to do with race.
As Thomassey made his remarks, Rose supporters could be heard gathering outside the courthouse, chanting for justice.
“Say his name. Antwon Rose II,” they shouted. “Three shots to the back, how you justify that?”
Earlier Friday, Kenney had said she believed the jury of seven men and five women had enough evidence to find Rosfeld guilty of murder.
“I miss my son,” she said. “And he’s not here.”
Prosecutors, too, had asked the jury to return a murder conviction.
“This is not reasonable police work by an officer,” Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Fodi said in his closing arguments. “It’s not OK to run from a traffic stop, but it’s also not OK to shoot somebody who does.”
He’d pointed out the irony of it all. Rosfeld was asking the jury to find him not guilty, while he, Fodi said, had played judge, jury and executioner himself the night Rose was killed.
“Doesn’t the hypocrisy hit you right between the eyes?” he asked the jury.
“(Thomassey) wants you to weigh the life of Antwon Rose,” he said. “He wants you to sign off, give a seal of approval that this was good police work.”
The jurors did.
Thomassey, in his closing arguments, had referred to Rose and Hester as murderers. Two teens were injured in the drive-by shooting that preceded Rose’s killing, and Rosfeld had stopped the car in which they were passengers because it matched the description of the suspect vehicle.
He said Rosfeld’s traffic stop and his shooting were by the book – justified. He said Rosfeld was doing his job.
“He’s maintained from the beginning, he’s just – he was trying to do what he was supposed to do,” Thomassey said after the verdict. He has a car that’s involved in trying to murder two people up the road, what’s he supposed to do?”
Neither Fodi nor Fitzsimmons spoke after the verdict.
Thomassey said he does not know what Rosfeld’s next moves are but said Rosfeld and his wife will figure it out — “they’re young,” he said.
“She’s a nice kid, and she has stuck by him,” he said of Michelle Rosfeld. “They’re simple people. Mike was making $13 an hour. Can you imagine that? Going out there and risking getting shot every night.”
On Grant Street, state Rep. Ed Gainey was among the gathered demonstrators.
“We want the cops to come home safe,” he said, “but we want our children to come home safe.”
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .