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Published: Saturday, 5/2/2009

Robinson's request for new trial challenged

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Robinson Robinson
THE BLADE/LISA DUTTON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

The Rev. Gerald Robinson's request for a new murder trial has so many "assertions that are patently false" that the court should view it "with extreme caution," prosecutors said in a motion filed Friday.

The 85-page motion, accompanied by about 800 pages of appendices, was filed in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in response to the Toledo Catholic priest's amended petition for postconviction relief.

In a separate filing, the Ohio Innocence Project this week joined Robinson's defense team, saying it would analyze DNA evidence in the case.

In the amended petition filed Jan. 16 by Robinson's attorney, John Donahue of Perrysburg, the priest's defense team made 225 assertions claiming that their client's constitutional rights were violated in the 2006 trial in which he was convicted of murdering a nun 26 years earlier.

Among the points made by Mr. Donahue was that Robinson's trial lawyers were ineffective, the state withheld important evidence, and that the jury was prejudiced by pretrial media coverage.

Dean Mandros, assistant Lucas County prosecutor, said Friday that the state went to great lengths in writing its response because "we weren't going to let [Mr. Donahue] get away with one single distortion" contained in the petition.

"I don't think any of his claims have any merit. The judge obviously will be the arbiter of that," he said.

In a separate motion filed this week, the Ohio Innocence Project, a nonprofit group specializing in DNA analysis, joined Robinson's defense team as co-counsel. The Cincinnati-based group said it believes "DNA evidence may become an important issue in this case" and said it will address only issues relating to DNA.

Mr. Mandros said he wel-comes further review of the DNA evidence and the state is confident there is no DNA data that would exonerate Robinson in the murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl.

The 71-year-old nun was strangled nearly to death and then stabbed 31 times in the sacristy of the former Mercy Hospital on April 5, 1980 - Holy Saturday. The crime went unsolved until Robinson was arrested by Lucas County cold-case detectives in 2004 and a jury found him guilty in May, 2006.

In Friday's motion, the state cited Robinson's "proven lies as to his alibi," including telling investigators that he never left his Mercy Hospital apartment until learning of Sister Margaret Ann's murder. But three witnesses testified during the trial that they saw Robinson near the chapel around the time of the murder - before he was told about the homicide.

"Lies told by any defendant are harmful in a trial. Lies are especially damning when told by a priest," the state said.

The Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals upheld Robinson's conviction in July, 2008, issuing an unusually detailed 95-page ruling, and the Ohio Supreme Court in December declined to hear the priest's appeal.

Mr. Donahue is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, which hears about 1 percent of cases submitted to it, and filed the amended petition for post-conviction relief in what he called a "two-pronged attack" to get his client's conviction overturned.

Robinson, 71, who was suspended from ministry but remains a Catholic priest, is serving a 15-years-to-life sentence at Hocking Correctional Facility in Nelsonville, Ohio. His first parole hearing is scheduled to be in March, 2021.

Contact David Yonke at:

dyonke@theblade.com or

419-724-6154.



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