Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Harvey Robinson: Adolescent Serial Killer

Two Down, One to Go

Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin
Lehigh County District
Attorney James Martin

In June 2001, Judge Edward Reibman vacated Robinson's death sentences in the murders of Burghardt and Schmoyer.  In that trial, Reibman said, the instructions to the jury had not properly defined the aggravated circumstances of multiple murder.  He allowed the defendant to have a new sentencing hearing.  The prosecutor would have to decide to go forward.

Four years later in December 2005, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence in the Fortney case and the first-degree murder convictions in the other two cases.  The high court stated that although Robinson believed that his attorney had not presented mitigating circumstances on his behalf, the trial jury had indeed considered reasons against imposing the death penalty and had given him death anyway.  The court similarly rejected Robinson's claims that the prosecutor had improperly labeled him a predator (as well as his claim with other inmates that the jury pool selection system was racially biased).  Steinberg's remarks during Robinson's murder trial were found to be consistent with claims that Robinson had targeted a certain type of victims within a specific geographical area.  So Robinson remained in the same boat.  That is, until another legal development occurred.

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell

The following year, on March 1, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that juveniles age 17 and under were ineligible for the death penalty.  This ruling affected Robinson's conviction in the Burghardt murder, committed when he was seventeen.  However, that death sentence was already vacated.  The Supreme Court's decision simply meant that Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin would not reopen that case, but he was nevertheless determined to seek a new hearing in the Schmoyer case.

Robinson's death penalty appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied in October 2005.  In February 2006, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell signed his death warrant, with an execution date set for April 4, 2006.  A federal appeal will likely stay it, say attorneys on both sides.


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