A dying Catholic priest who was convicted of killing a nun has turned to a federal court judge to ask that he be allowed to return to Toledo, possibly to spend his final days in the care of nuns who have agreed to take him in.
Gerald Robinson, 76, is in a hospice unit at Franklin Medical Center in Columbus, a hospital run by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. His attorney, Rick Kerger, filed a petition for equitable relief Friday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland.
“In this instance what is sought is an act of grace for a dying man, relief the state cannot fashion,” Mr. Kerger wrote in the petition. “Yet the fact that the state has not provided for such relief does not mean that the federal court is impotent.”
Ohio law governing the release of dying prisoners states, “No inmate is eligible for release under this section if the inmate is serving … a sentence for aggravated murder or murder,” and an earlier appeal to Gov. John Kasich failed.
On June 2, Mr. Kerger sent a letter to the governor requesting Robinson’s release from prison after learning that Robinson had suffered “a massive coronary” and was deemed terminal by physicians. The governor’s office, Mr. Kerger said, “called virtually the next day and said they felt there was simply nothing that could be done under the statute as they understood it.”
He conceded the petition he filed in federal court was both “a long shot and a last-ditch effort” for Robinson, who was found guilty in 2006 by a Lucas County Common Pleas Court jury of murder for the 1980 slaying of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl in the sacristy of the former Mercy Hospital chapel. He was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after 15 years.
Mr. Kerger is asking the court to allow Robinson to be transferred to the Little Sisters of the Poor Sacred Heart Home in Oregon, which has “indicated a willingness to accept Father Robinson and care for him in his final days. Alternatively, his brother and sister-in-law are willing to have him stay with them” in Toledo.
He said Robinson has intravenous ports in each arm and uses oxygen to supplement his breathing.
“In short, he is no risk to anyone irrespective of where he is held,” the petition states. “Movement of Father Robinson to the requested locations would eliminate the cost of care provided by the state and allow him to die in his home community.”
Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division for the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office, said prosecutors “would be opposed to any release for a person incarcerated for murder. There is no exception in the Ohio Revised Code for persons who are in prison for murder.”
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