Defense attorneys representing convicted murderer Sheldon Devont Jeter say they will soon be seeking a mistrial in his case after confirming one of the jurors is related to him and allegedly discovering she was a neighbor of slain Aliquippa school teacher Rachael DelTondo. Official court transcripts obtained by BeaverCountian.com detail a decision by Jeter’s team to decline an opportunity to question the woman before agreeing to have her seated as a juror.
The woman had openly told the court she may be related to Jeter by marriage in response to questions posed by the judge and prosecutors. She was never questioned about DelTondo.
BeaverCountian.com is not identifying the juror by name.
Jeter was convicted of first-degree murder this month for the May 2020 shooting death of Tyric Pugh. Although no one has been charged in DelTondo’s murder, his attorneys have publicly acknowledged he is a law enforcement suspect in her shooting. Jeter denies any involvement in her death.
Jeter’s attorneys argue that as DelTondo’s alleged neighbor, the juror in question was literally too close to her highly publicized murder to not have developed at least a subconscious bias. Jeter should as a result be entitled to a new trial for the murder of Pugh, they argue.
BeaverCountian.com was the only news organization in the courtroom for the duration of jury selection in Jeter’s case, and has now paid a $520 fee required to obtain official court transcripts of the June 7 proceeding.
Among the transcript’s 416 printed pages are approximately 10 which detail questioning of the Aliquippa woman who would ultimately become Juror #3, now at the center of controversy.
Voir Dire – “Speak The Truth”
Jurors in criminal trials are chosen through a process attorneys call “voir dire.” It starts when individuals are called to jury duty through a random lottery of voter records. The prospective jurors are mailed a questionnaire which they are to return to the elected officials who comprise Beaver County’s Jury Commission.
The individuals are then eventually summoned to the courthouse as needed, where they are gathered together in a holding lounge before eventually being taken to a courtroom.
The prospective jurors are then placed under oath and questioned as a group. A trial judge or attorneys in the case ask them to raise their hands if they have any hardships which may negatively impact them if chosen, if they have been exposed to any relevant pretrial publicity in the media, and other similar questions designed to determine their fitness to serve on the jury.
The individuals are then taken into the waiting lounge and brought back one at a time into the courtroom for “individual voir dire,” where any potential issues can be explored more in-depth.
The ultimate goal of this lengthy process is to develop a fair and impartial jury comprised of a defendant’s peers. These individuals must be able to abide by a judge’s instructions on the law, hear and weigh evidence in the case, and ultimately determine whether or not prosecutors have met their high burden of proving a defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Questioning The Prospective Juror – Seating Juror #3
During group questioning, the woman who would become Juror #3 did not raise her hand when asked if she had heard about the case in question, and also did not indicate she had any potential hardships.
When brought in for individual questioning, she told Common Pleas Judge Kim Telsa that she had no personal or business relationship with anyone affiliated with the prosecution.
She was then asked by the judge if she had any ties to the defendant, Sheldon Jeter.