cheap chicago bears jersey Bite mark probably headed to appeal
HOLLIDAYSBURG Arguments over the validity of bite mark evidence in a forthcoming Blair County murder retrial are likely headed to the state Superior Court.
In a ruling issued Monday, Blair County Judge Jolene G. Kopriva again denied a request from attorneys representing Paul Aaron Ross for a Frye hearing where they would challenge the use of bite marks as trial evidence based on developing science.
But unlike her March ruling where she said no to a Frye hearing, Kopriva latest order permits defense attorneys Thomas Dickey and Thomas Hooper to file an immediate appeal to Superior Court on the matter that could influence the outcome of the case.
is in the interest of efficiency to have the appellate court resolve the issue prior to conducting either a Frye hearing or a trial, both of which could be subject to appeal, Kopriva said.
Both sides, the judge said, have already generated materials in support of their positions about bite mark evidence.
The 45 year old Ross remains incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy in Frackville, Schuylkill County, based on a 2005 first degree murder conviction in the death of 26 year old Tina S. Miller of Hollidaysburg.
Miller body was found during the early morning hours of June 26, 2004, at Canoe Creek State Park. A significant piece of evidence during Ross trial included a bite mark on Miller body that a prosecution witness described as highly consistent with Ross bite mark.
In 2011, however, the state Superior Court directed Blair County to try Ross again, concluding in the former trial,
Dickey lacked sufficient time to prepare Ross defense. The former trial also included bad acts testimony from Ross former girlfriends, which the high court concluded was improper.
District Attorney Richard Consiglio has consistently maintained that bite mark evidence used in the first trial remains valid for use in Ross retrial.
In documents and arguments before Kopriva, Consiglio said bite mark evidence remains generally accepted within the scientific community of forensic odontologists and their guidelines. While a bite mark alone is insufficient to determine who made it, guidelines indicate that experts are able through closer examination to decide who could have made it and who couldn have made it.
Dickey and Hooper however, with help from attorneys at the Innocence Project in New York, have argued that within the last decade, the science behind the use of bite mark evidence has come under repeated criticism. At an August court hearing, attorney Chris Fabricant with the Innocence Project told Kopriva that 29 convictions had been overturned because of discredited bite mark evidence.
Kopriva latest order also grants a gag order Consiglio sought in reaction to an online blog posting in response to Kopriva March ruling. Fabricant admitted in August to making the online posting, which Consiglio said was an attempt to try the case in public.
Kopriva said the post accused her of in willful scientific illiteracy among the judiciary.
The state Code of Civility, the judge referenced in her ruling imposing the gag order, states that lawyers should not engage in any conduct that diminishes the dignity or decorum of the courtroom. Attorneys should also strive, she added, to protect the dignity and independence of the judiciary particularly, from unjust criticism and attack.