Gerald Robinson in Court Again, with a Startling New Defense

By Desmond Strooh
May 20, 2011

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - An infamous case went back to center stage in a Lucas County courtroom. Convicted killer Father Gerald Robinson is asking for a new trial and he's putting his initial attorneys in the hot seat.

The priest was convicted in 2006 for the 1980 stabbing death of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl inside a hospital chapel. He's now served five years of his 15 years-to-life sentence.

The priest's new defense team filed a post-conviction relief motion for a new trial based on new evidence, newly discovered police reports and its claims of ineffective trial council.

The judge denied the request on ineffective council but heard testimony Friday on the other evidence to determine if it might have changed the outcome of the verdict in the trial.

Robinson's new defense called his trial lawyers to the stand. They repeatedly spoke and were asked about what they knew of serial killer Coral Eugene Watts who lived in Ann Arbor at the time of Pahl's death.

They said an officer in Michigan believes Watts could have been in the Toledo area when Pahl was killed.

"I think it's interesting that the reason defense council didn't dive into the theory was in part they thought he was in jail which he was not," said Richard Kerger, Robinson's new defense attorney.

Kerger says 179 police reports discovered in the police department record's bureau after the trial indicate six witnesses at the hospital described another man who left the scene.

While questioning trial attorney John Thebes, Kerger asked, "Would it have helped you in that decision to know that not just two but eight witnesses saw an unidentified black male leaving the scene of the crime on the day it happened? "

Thebes said he looked into Watts before the trial but did not think his crimes were similar to Pahl's death. Thebes said Watts went for young victims, would stalk them and attack them in their homes.

"Would it have helped me? It would have helped it they saw Mr Watts," said Thebes. Thebes said it was a conscious decisions among all of Robinson's trial attorneys not to bring up Watts as a suspect before a jury.

"What they're attempting to do is create a defense out of non-existent and non-relevant evidence," assistant prosecutor John Weglian said after the hearing.

He said Watts was questioned by other investigators if he had ever committed crimes in Toledo. Watts said no. He died in prison in 2007.

Weglian believes the whole move is the defense's way to put Robinson on the stand in front of a new jury.

Both sides must submit post briefs to the hearing by June 17.

The judge will make his decision regarding a new trial sometime after that.


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