Judge Lets Media Back In For Jury Selection In Wilkinsburg Shooting Case

Jan 8, 2020

On today's program: Meet the PSO’s new principal pops conductor; a look back at 2020’s potential biggest business story; why a judge would bar reporters from the courtroom in a capital murder case; a new book explores the business of immortality; and how residents are affected when their neighborhood becomes a hotbed for development.

Credit John Abbott / Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

  New Pops conductor wants to put an exclamation mark on the PSO’s back beat
(00:00 — 12:19)

Jazz trumpeter Byron Stripling is joining the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as its second-ever principal conductor of its Pops program.

Stripling tells The Confluence that Pops-goers can expect to hear his jazz influence in upcoming shows, including a fair bit of improvisation. 

"From my performances, if you’re going to yell something to me in the audience, you’re going to get another yell back from me,” he says. “Everything that happens on that stage is spontaneous. It’s going to be like watching Shakespeare write something. It’s going to be like watching Beethoven compose music. You get to be a part of that.”  

Oscar-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch is the only previously serving Pops conductor. He was appointed in 1994 and held the position until his death in 2012.

Health care to top business stories in 2020 
(13:38 — 18:09) 

Upcoming hospital construction and expansion of services among the region’s two health care giants, UPMC and Highmark, remain stories to watch this year, Pittsburgh Business Times reporter Paul Gough says. He spoke with 90.5 WESA’s Maria Scapellato about fallout from a lengthy legal battle last year.

Though many Highmark customers still have access to UPMC doctors, the deal is far from permanent. But as the two continue to expand programs, services and facilities, Gough says more construction and health care jobs are likely to follow.

Wilkinsburg shooting trial judge allows press back into courtroom
(18:10 — 23:53) 

Jury selection was delayed Tuesday afternoon in the trial of two men charged in the March 9, 2016 shooting deaths of five people and an unborn child during a cookout at a home in Wilkinsburg.

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Edward Borkowski closed off the proceedings to the public and the media after a juror contacted a court official to say they were scared because information about them was published. He's since reversed that decision, deciding media would be allowed, but the names, contact information, workplaces and other identifying information of empaneled jurors should be protected until after the trial concludes.

“It’s not unusual for a juror to be upset or take offense or be surprised, however it is unusual for a judge to close an entire jury selection proceeding to all news media,” says David Harris, WESA legal analyst and law professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

Criminal trial proceedings are presumed to be open, Harris says, to insure defendants are treated “in ways that are fair and just.”

Cheron Shelton of Lincoln-Lemington and Robert Thomas of Wilkinsburg are charged with 5 counts of homicide and 1 count of homicide of an unborn child.

Pittsburgh-based author chronicles science’s search for human immortality
(23:57 — 28:35) 

In what might sound like a work of science fiction, Pittsburgher Chip Walter has released a new book that explores how scientists backed by big money are seeking to extend human life indefinitely. 90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll spoke with Walter about “Immortality, Inc.: Renegade Science, Silicon Valley Billions, and the Quest to Live Forever.” 

When Walters started work on the book, he acknowledges, he thought the quest for immortality was “crazy. But by the time I got through at all and saw the science, I came to the conclusion, ‘My God, they're going to pull it off.’”

JLL creating realty database about Pittsburgh’s hot neighborhoods 
(28:37 — 38:30) 

The Pittsburgh office of national retail services provider Jones Lang LaSalle is compiling data about buzzworthy neighborhoods and their developments. The firm completed a report about the South Side in December; Wednesday, it released a report about Oakland. 

JLL researchers Tobiah Bilski and Collin Potter joined The Confluence to discuss the firm’s reporting process.

90.5 WESA’s Julia Zenkevich, Caldwell Holden and Caroline Bourque contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.