Share This Page

'Medical mystery' delays Penn Hills cop-slaying trial

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 10:06 a.m.

A “medical mystery” will delay for two weeks the trial of a man accused of fatally shooting a Penn Hills police officer, an Allegheny County judge decided Wednesday.

Guards found Ronald Robinson, 35, unresponsive in his Allegheny County Jail cell Tuesday hours before jury selection was to begin.

“It appeared that Mr. Robinson was in the throes of some type of seizure,” said Allegheny County Deputy District Attorney Mark V. Tranquilli.

During a conference Wednesday to reschedule the trial, Tranquilli told Common Pleas Judge Kevin G. Sasinoski that doctors at UPMC Mercy are baffled by what they call a “medical mystery.” They pumped his stomach and tested his blood for toxic substances, but found only that he was under the influence of marijuana, Tranquilli said.

“The medical staff has no medical explanation as to what happened to Mr. Robinson in the early hours of Nov. 13,” he said.

Robinson remains under observation at the hospital but doctors plan to return him to the jail Friday.

Sasinoski scheduled jury selection to start Nov. 26.

Prosecutors charged Robinson with shooting and killing Danyal Morton, 40, of Penn Hills, and Officer Michael Crawshaw, 32, on Dec. 6, 2009.

Police said Robinson killed Morton in a Penn Hills home over a $500 drug debt, then left the house and fired at Crawshaw — the first officer to respond — striking him several times while he still was in his patrol car.

The District Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty.

Pat Thomassey, one of Robinson's lawyers, objected to resuming the trial until the defense can determine whether the medical problem hurt Robinson's ability to participate in his defense.

“We have a guy who was on life support,” he said. “It's clear there was no suicide attempt here. He was not trying to forestall this trial.”

Sasinoski said there's no evidence Robinson suffered brain damage.

“If he's being returned to the jail, it's presumed that he's physically fit and ready to go,” the judge said.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.