GREENSBURG (KDKA/AP) — Jury selection began today for the death penalty trial of a man charged in the shooting death of a New Kensington police officer almost two years ago.
Rahmael Sal Holt is accused of shooting and killing Officer Brian Shaw during a traffic stop in November 2017.
KDKA’s Ross Guidotti reports nine jurors had been seated when Monday’s session wrapped up. There were six women and three men selected.
Those nine come from a pool of 65 potential jurors.
“Well, the challenge was whether we could get a fair and impartial jury in Westmoreland County given the high publicity and the high profile of the case, and we have not had that problem thus far,” said defense attorney Tim Dawson.
“Remarkably, a lot of people have not heard about the Brian Shaw murder case, which was very surprising.”
The trial is scheduled to begin next Monday.
(Photo Credit: KDKA)
Prosecutors have said they intend to seek capital punishment if Holt is convicted of first-degree murder.
Holt has maintained that he wasn’t the one who fired the shots that killed Shaw following the traffic stop in New Kensington.
A judge last week rejected a defense request to remove Holt’s previous gun charges from trial evidence but did agree to bar prosecutors from introducing evidence that Holt had sold drugs prior to the slaying.
Holt’s attorney Dawson is also asking the judge to take the death penalty off the table based on two pending cases in the Supreme Court arguing against the death penalty as cruel and unusual.
Judge Rita Hathaway denied that request, saying the death penalty is still an option until otherwise ruled on.