Parkland Press

Friday, June 5, 2020
Jonathan Roselle Jonathan Roselle

Jury selection begins for trial of former police officer

Friday, March 13, 2020 by SARIT LASCHINSKY Special to The Press in Local News

Jury selection began Tuesday for the trial of former South Whitehall Township police officer Jonathan Roselle, who faces criminal charges related to a 2018 fatal on-duty shooting.

Roselle’s trial was scheduled to begin March 9 before Judge Kelly L. Banach in the Lehigh County Courthouse, Allentown.

Krista Schantz, administrative assistant for Banach’s chambers, told The Press jury selection would begin March 10. The selection process was expected to continue on March 11.

Depending on how long that takes, Schantz said, multiple dates have been allocated for the trial to begin.

She said at the earliest, the trial could start March 12 or 13. If the selection has not been completed in time, additional time has been allocated for the weeks of March 16 and 23.

Schantz also stated that, if necessary, the trial window would be extended beyond March 23.

During a pretrial hearing in early 2019, Banach issued an order stating trial attendees will not be allowed to wear shirts demonstrating support for law enforcement or the shooting victim, Joseph Santos, to maintain an impartial playing field.

Banach also said she would be enforcing a decorum order setting courtroom rules; cellphones must be turned off, and spectators may be searched when entering the courtroom.

Roselle, of Parryville, Carbon County, faces a charge of voluntary manslaughter in the July 28, 2018, shooting death of Santos, 44, of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, at 3712 Hamilton Boulevard near Dorney Park.

During an Aug. 7, 2018, news conference, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin said Roselle encountered Santos after responding to reports of a man interfering with traffic along Hamilton Boulevard.

Martin stated that Santos pounded on the driver and passenger sides of Roselle’s police SUV, climbed on the hood and banged on the windshield.

He then walked away from the vehicle before reversing course and walking back toward Roselle, who issued commands for Santos to get on the ground.

After Santos refused to comply, Roselle fired his service weapon five times, killing Santos.

At the same briefing, Martin announced Roselle would be charged with voluntary manslaughter, rather than third degree murder, because murder requires malice.

Regarding the manslaughter charge, Martin stated an “objective analysis of the facts” did not establish nor justify a reasonable use of deadly force as Santos was walking, not running, toward Roselle, was not armed with any weapon and there was “no evidence that he had committed or attempted a forcible felony.”

Martin also noted Roselle was equipped with several less-than-lethal force options — an ASP expandable baton, pepper spray and a Taser — all of which were found to be functional.

Roselle, who was still on his probationary period and had been on patrol by himself for less than five months before the shooting, had his employment with the South Whitehall Police Department terminated Sept. 6, 2018.

He is being represented by Attorney Gavin P. Holihan of Allentown and remains free on $75,000 unsecured bail.

Roselle faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison if convicted.