KITTANNING (AP) – A jury has been selected for the trial of a man charged with strangling a woman he knew after escaping from an Armstrong County jail.
The Armstrong County jury of six men and six women selected Monday will hear opening statements and testimony starting Tuesday in the trial of 38-year-old Robert Crissman Jr., the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review first reported. Common Pleas Judge Kenneth Valasek said he expects the trial to last through Friday, Crissman’s 39th birthday.
Crissman is charged with criminal homicide, escape and other crimes for allegedly running away from the Armstrong County jail on July 30. He had been working as a trustee who retrieved inmate food trays from a truck parked outside the lockup. He’s accused of beating and strangling an acquaintance, Tammy Long, 55, in her home near the lockup before he was arrested hours later.
Crissman’s arrest prompted the warden to resign and various security reforms at the jail.
Defense attorney Charles Pascal had expressed concern that publicity about the escape, killing and aftermath at the jail might make it difficult to find enough jurors who wouldn’t be swayed by media accounts.
But only 14 of the first 64 jurors summoned told the judge they had firm opinions about Crissman’s guilt, and the 12 jurors who will hear the case were selected quickly afterward.
Crissman could face life in prison without parole if he’s convicted of first-degree murder. District Attorney Scott Andreassi determined the case didn’t qualify for the death penalty.
Crissman allegedly went to Long’s home about a mile from the jail where he stole her boyfriend’s truck after killing her, Andreassi contends. He was arrested July 31 after leading police on a short chase in his hometown of Boggs.
Long’s children have since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the jail and its former warden, alleging the escape and slaying were preventable if not for shoddy jail policies. Among other things, they cite reports by Andreassi and a security consultant that concluded Crissman should not have been approved for trustee duty that took him outside the jail because he was a heroin addict still in withdrawal after his arrest a few days earlier.
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