Toledo priest Gerald Robinson is scheduled to appear - by video - in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in January for the first time since he was convicted there 3 1/2 years ago of murdering a nun.
Judge Gene Zmuda yesterday slated oral arguments for Jan. 22 to determine whether more evidence can be introduced in Robinson's petition for post-conviction relief. "The number of pages that have been generated in the post-conviction petition is soon to outpace the number of pages generated by the trial," Judge Zmuda said.
The judge met yesterday with attorneys for both sides in a pretrial hearing in his chambers to "make sure there's some order and structure," then presided over a brief hearing in open court in which he scheduled the oral arguments and accepted several motions.
The state canceled its request for a gag order, and Robinson's appeals team withdrew its "continuing objection to any further continuances."
John Donahue of Perrysburg, one of three attorneys representing the 71-year-old priest, said afterward that he had filed the objection because he did not want any more delays in the case, citing the priest's advanced age and his incarceration.
The state had requested a gag order in February, saying Robinson's attorneys were talking to the media while at the same time claiming that prejudicial pretrial publicity contributed to the guilty verdict.
Robinson, who retired from the Toledo Diocese in 2004 and was barred from ministry by Bishop Leonard Blair, remains a priest because he has not been laicized.
He was convicted by a jury in May, 2006, for the brutal murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, who was choked and then stabbed 32 times on April 5, 1980 - Holy Saturday. Robinson is serving a 15-years-to-life sentence at Hocking Correctional Facility in Nelsonville, Ohio.
Judge Zmuda yesterday also gave the state 30 days to respond to a supplemental affidavit filed by Robinson's attorneys.
In the statement, Toledo police Detective Tonya Rider said she interviewed a woman suing Robinson anonymously as Survivor Doe. That civil suit is pending in Common Pleas Court.
Survivor Doe alleges that she was repeatedly abused in satanic rituals as a child but did not know the identities of her abusers. According to her lawsuit, she immediately recognized Robinson as one of the perpetrators when she saw him on television after his arrest for murder in April, 2004.
Detective Rider said that when she interviewed Survivor Doe in September, 2004, she showed her "a photo array of six men of similar race and approximate age," including a photo of Robinson.
"While Survivor 'pointed him out as looking familiar, she was unable to state that he was at the ceremonies she attended,'•" Detective Rider said.
Mr. Donahue said in his motion that Survivor Doe's "recognition claims were lies," that the state withheld this information from the priest's trial attorneys, and that the detective's testimony could have refuted allegations of "the occult Catholic priest" and the "Catholic Church cover-up" that were "at the heart of the case presented" to the jury that convicted him.
Judge Zmuda said that after the state responds to the latest affidavit, Mr. Donahue will have two weeks to make a final response.
Robinson waived his right to appear at yesterday's hearing.
His appeal was rejected by Ohio's 6th District Court of Appeals, and both the Ohio Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his case.
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