Judge denies accused cop killer Rahmael Holt’s request for outside jury | TribLIVE.com
Valley News Dispatch

Judge denies accused cop killer Rahmael Holt’s request for outside jury

Rich Cholodofsky
1275372_web1_VND-HoltPrelim2-121417
Rahmael Sol Holt is escorted from District Court Justice Frank Palone’s office after his preliminary hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017.

Jury selection in the capital murder trial of Rahmael Sal Holt will begin in Westmoreland County, but could be moved to another county if finding impartial jurors proves to be too difficult, a judge ruled Monday.

Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rita Hathaway rejected a defense request to move jury selection to another county because of intense pretrial publicity the case has generated since the November 2017 slaying of New Kensington police Officer Brian Shaw.

Holt, 31, of Harrison is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the fatal shooting of Shaw. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty should there be a conviction.

“We won’t be able to select a fair and impartial jury in Westmoreland County,” defense attorney Tim Dawson said.

Jury selection for Holt’s November trial is scheduled to begin in late October. Testimony is slated to begin Nov. 4.

Hathaway said an effort will be made to select jurors in Westmoreland County. Should that prove to be difficult, the judge said she will reconsider the defense’s motion.

Prosecutors said Holt gunned down Shaw as Holt fled from a traffic stop in New Kensington. Holt was arrested four days later in Pittsburgh after an intense manhunt.

Also on Monday, the judge rejected a defense effort to bar prosecutors from seeking the death penalty.

Dawson argued that two cases pending before the state’s Supreme Court regarding appeals seeking to overturn death penalty cases issued in Philadelphia could ultimately invalidate capital punishment in Pennsylvania. Dawson also suggested that state legislation proposed in Harrisburg would do the same.

The appeals are based on an argument that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment.

Capital punishment has been the law in Pennsylvania since the late 1970s but just three men have been executed in the state. Gov. Tom Wolf has placed a moratorium on signing any death warrants as state officials continue to study the impacts of the death penalty.

“At this time the death penalty is not declared unconstitutional, so at this point the trial will proceed,” Hathaway said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.