Tuesday’s jury selection will flip the script.
Typically, when prosecutors pick a jury, they look for people who are pro-police — who recognize the difficult job law enforcement officers have.
At the same time, defense attorneys often look for the opposite — they might want jurors who have had negative experiences with officers, people who are more apt to question authority.
But for the trial of former East Pittsburgh police Officer Michael Rosfeld, charged with shooting to death 17-year-old Antwon Rose II on June 19, experts say it will be the opposite.
“It’s a complete role reversal,” said Mark Calzaretta, a jury consultant with Philadelphia-based Magna Legal Services.
Mr. Rosfeld, 30, is charged with a single count of criminal homicide.
Jury selection in his case begins Tuesday morning at the Dauphin County courthouse in Harrisburg.
Antwon was the front-seat passenger in a gold car spotted in a drive-by shooting in North Braddock earlier that evening. Thirteen minutes later, Officer Rosfeld spotted the car with a shot-out rear window.
He pulled the vehicle over on Grandview Avenue and ordered the driver onto the ground.
As he did, Antwon and the back-seat passenger, Zaijuan Hester, who police have charged as the shooter in the drive-by, got out and started to run away.
Officer Rosfeld fired three shots, which all struck Antwon — in the arm, back and head.
Eight days later, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said that the shooting was not justified and announced that Mr. Rosfeld would be charged.
Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey has said, however, that his client was justified, knowing that the car from which Antwon fled had just been used in a drive-by shooting.
Mr. Thomassey filed a motion for a change of venire — seeking a jury from outside Allegheny County to come to Pittsburgh to hear the case — based on the amount of pre-trial publicity the shooting received. The incident was followed by weeks of protests, including some that shut down local highways, with protesters focused particularly on race: Antwon was black, Officer Rosfeld is white.
In January, Common Pleas Judge Alexander P. Bicket granted the motion, and a week later the state Supreme Court issued an order directing that the Rosfeld jury be selected from Dauphin County.
G. Terry Madonna, a political pollster who has studied Pennsylvania’s demographics, said that Dauphin County’s political leanings — like Allegheny County’s — tend Democratic. In both places, he said, the farther from the county seats of Pittsburgh and Harrisburg and the closer to more rural areas, the more those leanings shift toward Republican.
Dauphin County “definitely has shifted in the last decade,” he said. “I would think you could find a jury that was somewhat consistent with the demographics of Allegheny County.”
The racial makeup of each county’s population is similar. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 estimate, Allegheny County is 80.3 percent white and 13.4 percent black.
Dauphin County is 72.4 percent white, and 19.1 percent black.
Although it is uncommon for a jury panel to be picked from elsewhere, it has happened before in Pittsburgh.
The June 2011 death penalty trial of Richard Poplawski, accused of killing three Pittsburgh police officers on April 4, 2009, was heard by a Dauphin County jury.
Like then, the j