No one who is interested in justice should be bothered by Judge Jeffrey A. Manning's decision Wednesday to seek an out-of-county jury for the trial of Richard Poplawski.
The Stanton Heights man is accused of killing three Pittsburgh police officers who answered a domestic call at his home in April. The tragic killings and the televised funerals that followed riveted the attention of most people in this corner of the state.
That's why the Common Pleas judge was right to conduct three tests of the jury pool before deciding how to proceed. In the third and final session, he asked the 90 called for jury service how many had heard about the case; only five said they had not. He asked how many could set aside what they'd heard and render a verdict based strictly on courtroom evidence; only 33 said they could. Finally, he asked how many had reached a firm and unalterable opinion about the case; 52 said yes.
With that, the judge decided to grant the defense motion to use an outside jury. The state Supreme Court will decide which county will supply the jurors, but they are likely to come from outside the region's media market.
The last time Allegheny County brought in such a jury was 2003, when three former Mt. Lebanon High School classmates were accused of kidnapping and killing a man. It cost the county $25,300 to sequester 12 jurors and six alternates from Erie County for eight days.
To some Pittsburghers who were moved by the deaths of Officers Paul J. Sciullo II, Stephen J. Mayhle and Eric G. Kelly, not to mention the loss endured by their families, all of this legal procedure and potential cost may seem pointless, wasteful and indulgent.
To the contrary, it will help to ensure a fair trial -- and a fair trial means justice not only for the defendant, in this case someone who is charged with the most heinous of crimes. It also means justice for the families and friends of the victims who, at the conclusion of properly conducted legal proceedings, can be assured that the verdict that is rendered will stand and they won't have to go through the emotional, painful court process again.