And, just as Gease's attorney had done before him, defense attorney Scott D. Galloway objected to Delaware County's jury-selection process, suggesting that it limits the number of black residents selected for the jury pool. O'Neal and Gease are black.
Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty for O'Neal, as they did for Gease, who was convicted of killing a relative.
The proceedings yesterday were to hear testimony and arguments on pretrial motions, including the objections to the jury-selection process and an argument on the constitutionality of the death penalty.
Before the hearing began, though, Judge George Koudelis responded to the threat O'Neal had made to the deputy. At the insistence of Assistant District Attorney John A. Reilly Jr., Koudelis warned O'Neal against such outbursts. ''You're in enough hot water as it is," he said.
O'Neal, a Chester resident who is being held without bond in Delaware County Prison, did not deny the incident, which Price said occurred after the defendant had to be moved from the courtroom back to a holding cell, and then back to the courtroom once his attorney had arrived.
"Have I caused you any trouble before?" O'Neal asked Koudelis. "As long as he don't say nothing wrong to me, I won't say nothing wrong to him."
"OK, well, I'm going to hold you to that," Koudelis responded.
Yesterday's hearing saw many of the defense motions dismissed and some delayed until closer to or during the trial, which is scheduled to begin July 19. Among those delayed was the motion regarding jury selection.
Galloway wanted to note in the record the existence of a judge's committee that is studying the jury-selection process, but Koudelis ruled that the committee's mere existence was not evidence that something was wrong with the system. He held the matter open, though, should the Board of Judges initiate changes based on the committee's recommendations.
President Judge A. Leo Sereni, who is an ex-officio member of the committee, said the group had been meeting for several months. The panel was formed after questions about jury selection were raised in several cases last year. The Gease case was not, he said, the single reason for forming the committee.
Headed by Koudelis, the committee met for the last time on Wednesday, Sereni said, and could submit recommendations to the entire Board of Judges as early as Tuesday. Other members are Court Administrator Gerald C. Montella and Judges Robert A. Wright, Joseph F. Battle Jr., Kenneth A. Clouse and Anthony R. Semeraro.