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Rahmael Holt Sentenced To Death In The Murder Of Officer Brian Shaw

GREENSBURG (KDKA) -- Rahmael Holt, the man convicted in the shooting death of New Kensington Police Officer Brian Shaw, has been sentenced to death.

It was a unanimous decision from the jury. KDKA's Meghan Schiller says there was no reaction from Holt.

The sentencing phase of the trial for Rahmael Holt was back underway today at the Westmoreland County Courthouse.

On Tuesday, a jury convicted Holt, 31, of first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer for the shooting death of Officer Shaw in 2017. The jury delivered a guilty verdict on all four counts, finding Holt guilty of "First Degree Murder of a Law Enforcement Officer."

Holt's sentencing phase began Wednesday morning and lasted a day and a half.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Officer Shaw, 25, was shot three times at close range. He died within minutes of the shooting, nearly two years ago, following a traffic stop on Leishman Avenue in New Kensington.

At the start of the day Thursday, Holt told the courtroom he decided against testifying on his own behalf and will not take the stand to address the jury over this case in any way.

Holt's defense team, attorneys Timothy Dawson and attorney Jim Robinson, were expected to call two witnesses to the stand Thursday morning, Holt's girlfriend, Vanessa Portis, and Pastor Reholma McCants, of the Unity Community Lutheran Church in Homewood.

The two witnesses were an attempt to humanize Holt, according to attorney Dawson, in an effort to convince the jury to show mercy.

However, only Pastor McCants testified. He told the court how he mentored Holt from the ages of 6-14. He said Holt was smart and kind to adults and knew the difference between right and wrong.

It remains unknown why Portis did not take the stand.

The prosecution called Officer Shaw's mother and brother to the stand on Wednesday.

The government and defense have presented their closing arguments. The government telling the jury to consider the death penalty.

They said: "It was with that gun the defendant showed his true character," and "He [Holt] traded four days [of freedom] for the life of Officer Brian Shaw. What a trade."

Before the jury begins deliberations, the judge will explain the sentencing options in the case.


Due to the first-degree murder conviction, Holt was eligible for the death penalty. The prosecution is asking for the death penalty in this case due to the aggravating factors surrounding the murder. Holt's defense team has asked the jury to consider a life sentence without parole.

The jurors had to reach a unanimous decision in order to sentence Holt to death. If even one juror didn't wish to proceed with the death penalty, Holt would have received the sentence of life in prison.

While it took the jury about an hour and 10 minutes to convict Holt, it took approximately two and a half hours to sentence him.

Meghan Schiller reports the jury cited three mitigating factors in their sentence for Holt: the lack of parental support, the crime rate of the neighborhood he grew up in and the violent death of his brother. They decided the death of Officer Shaw outweighed all three of those mitigating factors.

Holt will become the 137th person on death row in a state that currently does not execute. Meanwhile, Holt's defense team will now appeal.

"Obviously we're disappointed," said Timothy Dawson, defense attorney. "There's an automatic appeal to the Supreme Court on all capital murder cases and that will take place."

While attorney Dawson prepares the appeal, Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck told KDKA that he's happy with the jury's decision.

"I certainly hope this brings them some sort of closure. It definitely doesn't bring Brian back. Hopefully, they can realize some measure of justice from the jury's verdict," said Peck.

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