Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Harvey Robinson: Adolescent Serial Killer

Robinson Speaks Out

Now 23, Robinson testified in front of about thirty people, denying that he had committed the slayings and indicating that he regretted not proclaiming his innocence to the jury members who had convicted him. While he spoke, the shackles on his ankles and wrists were clearly evident.  Judge Edward Reibman warned the spectators to behave, referring to the taunts two weeks earlier from Sam-Cali's supporters. "The court will not tolerate any disruptions in the courtroom," Reibman said, "nor will it tolerate any taunts addressed to any officers of the court.  Please stay within the boundaries of civilized society and civilized behavior and allow this system to run its course."

Judge Edward Reibman
Judge Edward Reibman

Robinson testified for three hours, with five deputies in close proximity, casting blame on his former lawyers.  At the time of his trial, he said, he'd given Marinelli and Burke the names of several people who could testify to his whereabouts when the three women were killed, as well as friends, coaches, teachers, and relatives who could attest to his character and accomplishments. Yet they called no alibi witnesses and presented few character witnesses. In addition, he continued, they did not inform him of the best strategy for defending himself and they did not use much information about his childhood that might have helped him.  He hoped to gain one of three options: to have his sentences vacated, to have the charges dismissed altogether, or to get a new trial.

Lauer asked Robinson directly whether he had committed the murders and he stated that he did not, which brought an audible response from the relatives of victims who were listening to him.  They were clearly irritated.  Robinson's mother was there as well, seated in the back, and Robinson smiled at her during the hearing.  Otherwise, he showed no emotion and spoke so softly he was asked several times to repeat his statements.

Robinson told Judge Reibman that he had declined to testify during his trial because he worried that prosecutors could have questioned him about his guilty plea to raping Sam-Cali.  "I was under the impression," he stated, "that if I did testify, then my past record was admissible."  He said he had not been informed otherwise.

Prosecutor Jacqueline Paradis probed this line of reasoning.  She raised the issue that his life had been on the line and wondered how he did not understand the significance.  He merely said he hadn't thought it was important.

Burke, one of Robinson's former defense attorneys, also testified, disputing his claim about the defense strategy.  He insisted that he had Marinelli had repeatedly encouraged Robinson to testify, both at his trial and at his sentencing. "I begged him," Burke stated. While he could not dispute the fact that only a few witnesses from Robinson's list had testified, he claimed that his and Marinelli's choices at the time had been made in their client's best interest: Many potential witnesses were contacted, he stated, but some seemed damaging to Robinson while others refused to testify or could not be located because Robinson had given insufficient information.  Robinson mistrusted lawyers, even those working on his behalf, so he had been less than cooperative.

Robinson agreed, but said in his defense that he'd developed that mistrust during the Sam-Cali rape case in which, he contended, his lawyer coerced him to plead guilty.  He now regretted that decision.

The court deliberated over these revelations and decided that Robinson's attorneys had acted in his best interests and had not been ineffective in their counsel, so Robinson did not receive a new trial, although other developments later affected his case.


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