Priest on trial for Nun's murder
TOLEDO, OHIO - A day before Easter in 1980, Sister Margaret Ann Pahl was found strangled and stabbed in a hospital chapel, the wounds on the nun’s chest and neck forming what investigators say resembled a cross. An altar cloth covered part of her body.
The trail soon went cold and stayed that way for more than 20 years – until investigators circled back to the priest who presided at her funeral Mass.
On Monday, the Rev. Gerald Robinson, 68, goes on trial on murder charges in a case swirling with allegations of an official cover-up, rumors of sexual abuse rites among priests and suspicions that the killing was some kind of ritual slaying. Robinson could get life in prison if convicted.
Investigators have not disclosed a motive for the slaying and have said the nun was not sexually assaulted.
Robinson was the Roman Catholic chaplain at Mercy Hospital and a popular priest in this blue-collar city of about 300,000, where a quarter of the residents are Catholic. He was especially well-liked in Polish neighborhoods because he delivered some sermons and heard confessions in Polish.
Robinson was a suspect early on because he was near the chapel at the time of the killing. Police questioned him for hours and found a sword-shaped letter opener in his room that prosecutors now believe was the murder weapon. But Robinson was not arrested until two years ago.
Since then, some community members have accused the Toledo police and the Toledo Catholic Diocese of not aggressively investigating the slaying and crimes involving priests accused of molesting children.
Current and former police officers deny there was a cover-up, saying Robinson was not charged earlier because there was not enough evidence. There were no fingerprints, no footprints, no witnesses. DNA technology was not available.
Investigators who reopened the murder case say they found bloodstains on the altar cloth that matched those from the letter opener. They said the stains were created when the letter opener was laid down.
Prosecutors also plan to use Robinson’s statements made to police, including a claim that someone else had confessed to killing the woman. He later admitted making that up.
Investigators reopened the murder case in December 2003 after prosecutors office received a letter about a woman’s claims that she was molested by priests for years as a child. Among the names she mentioned was Robinson. Police were unable to substantiate her allegations of sexual abuse.
Public parking blocked near courthouse for trial
There will be no public parking at meters on the east side of Michigan Street from Jackson to Adams streets and on both sides of Adams from Michigan to Erie Street beginning tomorrow for the start of the Rev. Gerald Robinson murder trial in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
Meters will be bagged, and the areas will be designated parking for media vehicles until the end of the trial, which is scheduled to last at least three weeks, Toledo police Sgt. Richard Murphy said.
Last edited by Pook : 04-18-2006 at 04:07 AM.
Behind the locked doors of a hospital chapel on one of the most sacred days in the Catholic calendar, Sister Margaret Ann Pahl was brutally murdered by her colleague, the Rev. Gerald Robinson, an Ohio prosecutor told jurors Friday.
However, as Robinson's trial began for the nun's gruesome death on April 5, 1980, Lucas County prosecutor Dean Mandross told the panel in his opening statement that he would not be presenting them with a motive.
Instead, Mandross promised jurors that a letter opener belonging to Robinson and eyewitness testimony would link the 68-year-old priest to the altar where Pahl's partially nude body was found stabbed and strangled in the sacristy of the Mercy Hospital chapel in Toledo. "You will learn how the defendant and the victim were together in the sacristy of that chapel and how one of them died a horrible death," Mandross said.
With the defendant wearing his priest's collar at the defense table, Mandross gave a brief but chilling overview of the manner in which a fellow nun found Pahl around 8 a.m. the day before Easter — and the day before the victim's 72nd birthday.
"She was working on the altar and it was in the sacristy of that chapel that someone took her by the neck and choked her so hard that two bones broke on the side of her neck," Mandross said. "Blood vessels in her eyes burst as she was choked to the verge of death." Pahl's assailant then laid her body on the floor and covered it with a cloth from the altar before stabbing her nine times over her heart in the shape of an upside-down cross, Mandross said. The killer then removed the cloth and stabbed her at least 22 more times before raising her skirt and rolling down her undergarments.
There was no evidence of sexual assault, Mandross said, and authorities quickly concluded that the murder was the work of someone the victim knew.
"Strangers don't typically have that type of energy, emotional anger, to stab someone 35 times," Mandross said.
(more at link)
Robinson's lawyers fault trial attorneys
Gerald Robinson, the Catholic priest who was convicted of murdering a nun, participates in a court hearing via a video link.
Violation of rights alleged in priest's bid for hearing
Article published January 23, 2010
By DAVID YONKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
As Toledo priest Gerald Robinson watched from prison on a video hookup, attorneys argued in Lucas County Common Pleas Court yesterday whether a new hearing should be held in the cleric's murder conviction.
Attorneys for the 71-year-old Catholic priest, found guilty nearly four years ago in the 1980 murder of a nun, claimed that Robinson's legal counsel was so ineffective during the trial that his constitutional rights were violated.
They also contended that new evidence, including a reported 70 misfiled police reports from 1980 that surfaced last year, merits a new hearing.
Dean Mandros, assistant Lucas County prosecutor, has asked Judge Gene Zmuda to dismiss the case and argued that Robinson's attorneys are merely second-guessing his trial lawyers and have not introduced anything substantial enough to prompt a new hearing.
Robinson's conviction was subsequently upheld by the state's 6th District Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court; the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
Yesterday's hearing was the first time Robinson appeared in the Lucas County Courthouse - albeit by video - since he was led away in handcuffs after the May 11, 2006, verdict that made headlines nationwide.
He is serving a 15-years-to-life sentence at the Hocking Correctional Facility in Nelsonville, where he watched the two-hour hearing by video from the prison's medical unit.
Judge Zmuda, saying with a smile that "I have the patience of Job when it comes to taking in information," grilled Mr. Mandros and Robinson attorneys John Donahue and Richard Kerger on numerous legal details and precedents.
One of the arguments stressed by Mr. Kerger and Mr. Donahue was that Robinson's trial attorneys failed to argue strongly enough that the Rev. Jerome Swiatecki, another Toledo Catholic priest who worked with Robinson as a chaplain at the hospital where the murder occurred, could have been the person who choked and stabbed Sister Margaret Ann Pahl 31 times on Holy Saturday morning, 1980. Father Swiatecki died in 1996 at age 82.
The attorneys cited testimony from an expert witness for the prosecution, the Rev. Jeffrey Grob, an exorcist and priest from Chicago, who said symbols surrounding Sister Margaret Ann's death showed that she had been killed by someone with knowledge of Catholic ritual, such as a priest or seminarian.
Mr. Donahue and Mr. Kerger cited affidavits they filed saying that Father Swiatecki had a "hair-trigger temper, fascination with knives, and sexual deviance."
They also challenged the prosecution's time frame for the nun's murder, contending that by their account Father Swiatecki's "airtight alibi" had holes in it.
Mr. Kerger and Mr. Donahue also questioned whether the 1980 police reports discovered last year might contain evidence that could help prove their client's innocence.
Mr. Mandros told Judge Zmuda the police reports were misfiled when they were transferred to microfiche about 15 years ago.
They were discovered after a thorough search ordered by the prosecutor's office when a 1980 report that the state had not seen appeared in one of Mr. Donahue's filings.
Mr. Mandros said he did not know exactly how many police reports had been found but said he reviewed them and believes they contained nothing substantial.
He said he would give copies to Judge Zmuda and the judge will determine whether copies should be given to Robinson's attorneys.
Mr. Donahue said afterward that Judge Zmuda had done his homework, asking "thoughtful and cogent questions." The attorney spoke with Robinson by video privately after the hearing and said the priest merely said, "Thank you very much, see you in February."
Judge Zmuda could order an evidentiary hearing based on any single point or any number of points raised by Robinson's petition.
Mr. Mandros said afterward he expects the judge will need months to make his decision. "He has to look at each specific issue they raise, and God knows how many that is, and make an independent decision on whether each issue warrants a hearing," Mr. Mandros said.
Fr. Robinson's attorneys try to prove bias; want new trial
Posted: Jan 22, 2010 11:05 AM CST Updated: Jan 22, 2010 5:03 PM CST
Posted by Lisa Strawbridge
TOLEDO (WTOL) - The attorneys for Fr. Gerald Robinson are asking that he be granted another trial.
Attorney John Donahue argues Robinson had inefficient council when he was convicted of killing Sr. Margaret Ann Pahl back in 1980.
Prosecutor Dean Mandros disagrees. "They're just asking for a chance to retry the case because the first go round didn't go their way," he said.
In affidavits, attorneys for Robinson stated they knew about a witnesses who had the same letter opener as the one Fr. Robinson was convicted of using to stab Pahl 31 times. Attorneys describe that letter opener as thin and flimsy.
In court, Prosecutor Mandros argued, "He wants to do testing on it and do what? Hit it with a hammer? Is that where we're going with this?"
Another issue brought up by the defense attorneys is 70 pages of police reports that were kept from the defense, according to Robinson's attorneys. They say the reports include names of hospital employees where the nun was killed.
The state did not have the pages, nor were state officials required to hand them over.
A judge will decide in the next few months if Robinson gets a new trial.
As for Fr. Robinson's condition in prison, Donahue says, "He views his incarceration as God's will, for one reason or another. He doesn't try to understand it."
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