Hundreds of jury summonses were sent to Washington County residents this week in an attempt to secure a relatively large pool of jurors for the homicide trial of three men charged in the death of Washington & Jefferson College student Timothy McNerney.
President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca said potential jurors’ responses have varied over the years to summonses, and the courts increased the number of summonses sent out for the monthly trial terms.
However, these summonses are separate from those for a monthly trial term and involve only the McNerney case.
O’Dell Seneca said jury selection for the trial, scheduled to begin March 3, will be complicated because the case is high-profile and involves three defendants.
“We are looking for 100 to 125 people for the jury selection process,” she said. “Once we have enough, the remaining individuals will be released.”
A typical Washington County jury consists of 12 jurors and two alternates.
Eric Wells, 25, of Pittsburgh, Troy Simmons Jr., 23, of East Pittsburgh, and Adam Hankins, 24, of 348 Houston St., Washington, are charged with the October 2012 death of McNerney, who was a running back on the W&J football team.
They are jailed in the Washington, Allegheny and Westmoreland county jails without bond.
McNerney and a teammate, Zach DeCicco of Jefferson Hills, were allegedly assaulted by the suspects as they walked back to campus after leaving a local tavern.
McNerney died from an injury to the back of his head suffered when he was knocked to the ground near South College and East Maiden streets.
On Jan. 15, Hankins’ attorney, Dennis Popojas, filed a document asking charges against his client be dismissed and claiming Hankins was simply a bystander.
The motion claims that Simmons demanded DeCicco’s cellphone, while Wells struck McNerney one time and took his cellphone.
A hearing on the matter has not been set.
Visiting Allegheny County Judge Edward Borkowski will preside over the trial.
Simmons’ attorney, Jack Puskar, said in past experiences with multiple defendants, judges like to keep their options open.
“They don’t want to exhaust their pool,” Puskar said. “So then you need a larger pool than usual.”