I am told (second- and third-hand) that Ohio Inmate Number A519811 is doing rather well considering he is incarcerated for a grotesque crime that he did not commit. One correspondent advises me that he has "quite the following" at the Hocking Correctional Facility. I pray it's true.
There is a lot happening lately in his case, some of it public, some not, and those of us who are persuaded by such things as DNA evidence have cause for optimism.
The award-winning prosecutor who secured this ridiculous "Satanic murder" conviction filed a bizarre motion in the case on Friday, February 13. Maybe he was feeling a bit superstitious. In it, he asked the trial court to impose a gag order on "all counsel."
This request is extremely unusual. Gag orders are sometimes imposed on attorneys in high-profile cases to prevent them from talking to the press. But the purpose of gag orders is to prevent pretrial publicity from tainting the jury pool and preventing a fair trial. In Father Robinson's case, the trial is over. A POST-trial motion for a gag order is not supported by any court rule or precedent that I'm aware of - and I've looked. It's ignorant. It's un-American.
The prosecutor's request for an order that would violate the free speech rights of the defense attorneys cannot possibly be justified under either the Ohio law or the First Amendment. Besides, issuing a gag order now in the Robinson case would close the barn door when the horse is out. His trial was televised; there are three books in print about the case.
Strange request, inn'it? Methinks the prosecutor fears embarrassment.
Fortunately, the trial judge has yet to dignify this request with a hearing date. Which brings me to...
A NEW JUDGE
Father Robinson's original trial was overseen by Judge Thomas Osowik, who took advantage of the publicity in the case to get himself elected to the Ohio Court of Appeals. This is wonderful, I say, because his replacement can't do worse.
The new judge assigned to the case is the Hon. Gene A. Zmuda, who was appointed to the circuit bench mere weeks ago. His background is in insurance defense law, which gives me, as someone who has always practiced in that area myself, some cause for hope. Then again, Toledo is a small town. The legal world in Toledo is a bit "incestuous," as one area practitioner once remarked to me.
The attorneys handling this case now have uncovered new evidence since the trial -- critical evidence that was withheld from Robinson's trial lawyers. That evidence includes the fact that there was another named suspect in the murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl.
That other suspect was serial killer Coral Eugene Watts. As it turns out, Sister Pahl's murder was investigated by the Coral Watts Task Force in the 1980s -- a fact that the police and prosecutors conveniently forgot when they put Father Robinson on trial. The Toledo police gave testimony under penalty of perjury that Father Robinson was the only suspect they ever had. That testimony was false.
Armed with this bombshell evidence, Father Robinson's attorneys have peppered Judge Zmuda with several pleadings recently. Among them is a motion seeking discovery. Meanwhile, the Ohio Innocence Project, attracted by the DNA evidence from the victim's fingernail scrapings (which did not match the priest), has expressed an interest in this case.
Unfortunately the Toledo media haven't read the latest pleadings, or so it seems. I haven't seen a story about the case since the prosecutor requested an illegal gag order. I hope they're not intimidated, but maybe that was the intended effect of that request all along.
I continue to closely follow every new development. I went to Toledo twice to read the pleadings myself. The judge's clerk told me I wouldn't be allowed to read the trial transcript (only "attorneys of record" are permitted to do so, she claimed). I requested the transcript anyway from the criminal clerk's office. They said they'd call me when they'd pulled it from the basement of the courthouse, or so they promised me both times. That was months ago now, and I'm still waiting for the phone to ring.
The docket for the case is online at http://www.co.lucas.oh.us/index.asp?NID=99 (Search term: Robinson Gerald; Case number: G-4801-CR-200401915-000). At this point, no hearings have been scheduled, but I look forward to another trip to Toledo sometime in May. Maybe they'll let me see the court file next time I'm down there, unless the City of Toledo has suspended the Constitution entirely.
Many people will be saying some extra prayers this weekend. Mine will include a request that Gerald Robinson be cleared and restored to his liberty, family, and friends, and that justice and common sense are resurrected in Toledo.