Rosfeld Trial Pushed Back To March 19, Prosecutors Seek To Block Evidence

Jan 24, 2019

The trial for Michael Rosfeld, who is accused of shooting and killing Antwon Rose in June, has been postponed until March 19. 

Allegheny County Common Pleas judge Alexander Bicket announced the change in court Thursday. He said Dauphin County, which is where the jury will be selected, has different court procedures than Allegheny County and that accommodating them required moving the date back. Jury selection will begin March 12. 

The news came at a pre-trial motion hearing Thursday, where attorneys argued over whether a jury should hear evidence that Rose had a gun magazine in his pocket when he was killed.

In a motion filed prior to the hearing, prosecutors said that that evidence is “irrelevant” to determining whether Rosfeld is guilty of homicide in the killing of Rose, a 17-year-old from Rankin.

Rosfeld, of the now defunct East Pittsburgh police department, “could not have known any of that information when he killed Rose,” the motion said.

In addition, the filing said, the evidence could “confuse” jurors or “unfairly impugn” Rose’s character.

While “such material may play to emotions and judgments in the court of public opinion,” the motion continued, “it has no place in a court of law within our Commonwealth.”

Rosfeld’s attorney, Patrick Thomassey, countered at Thursday’s hearing that he may use the evidence to show that a felony was in progress when his client shot Rose. Citing a state law, he said that information could help to prove that the shooting was justified. 

Assistant District Attorney Daniel Fitzsimmons said Thomassey's charaterization of the law was "just plain wrong." He said Rosfeld, rather, must show he knew of Rose's prior actions. 

Prosecutors argued that jurors also should not hear details about a drive-by shooting that preceded Rose’s death. Rose was a passenger in a Chevrolet Cruze involved in the shooting, though camera footage from the scene showed that he did not fire a weapon himself.

Rosfeld stopped the vehicle, which matched a description dispatched over police radio, moments before killing Rose. Rose, who was unarmed, was fleeing the vehicle when he was shot.

The county’s attorneys said jurors should not see evidence that a stolen pistol found in the car was tied to the earlier drive-by shooting. Video footage of the incident, the prosecutors added, also should not be allowed.

Thomassey said that evidence, too, is crucial to showing a felony was in progress. 

"They don't want to let us try our case," he said. "It's that simple." 

Bicket said he won't rule on the motion until the trial begins, at which time discovery will have ended. 

Jury selection is scheduled to begin March 12. On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered that jurors be chosen from Dauphin County in central Pennsylvania.

The high court’s decision came after Bicket ruled that jurors must come from outside Allegheny County. Bicket wrote that "pervasive prejudicial pre-trial publicity" could deny Rosfeld an impartial jury. Rose’s death sparked weeks of protest and widespread media attention, and Bicket said he expected news coverage to intensify as Rosfeld’s trial approaches.