Share This Page

Penn Hills murder suspect Robinson wasn't considered dangerous by state parole board

| Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013, 9:16 p.m.

Ronald Robinson was a convicted felon when police say he fatally shot a man over a $500 drug debt and then killed a Penn Hills police officer on Dec. 6, 2009.

The state parole board apparently did not consider Robinson to be especially dangerous to society when it released him from prison with an ankle monitoring bracelet after he served the minimum of a 2 12- to 5-year sentence for a firearms conviction in 2005, saying, “The interests of the commonwealth will not be injured,” according to a board document obtained by the Tribune-Review.

On Monday, an Allegheny County jury will begin deliberating whether to convict Robinson of first- or second-degree murder for the deaths of Danyal Morton, 40, and Officer Michael Crawshaw, 32. A conviction of first-degree murder would make him eligible for the death penalty.

Police and prosecutors say Robinson, 35, killed Morton inside a home on Johnston Road in Penn Hills in a dispute over drugs and then ran outside and sprayed Crawshaw's white and gold patrol car with 13 rounds from an AK-47 military-style rifle. Bullets struck the officer twice — once in the head and once in the upper left arm. A pathologist testified during the six-day trial that Crawshaw was killed instantly.

Robinson's mother, Rosetta Robinson, other members of his family who appeared in court last week, and his longtime girlfriend, Kashawna Jackson, declined to comment.

Robinson said little during his trial.

He grew up on Wheeler Street in Homewood and attended nearby Westinghouse High School. His criminal record, although extensive, was not considered during his trial. He has been arrested several times on drug and firearms charges.

In December 2001, Pittsburgh police were called to a street corner in Homewood where they found Robinson and his cousin Marcus Jernigan, who had been shot in the ankle. In 2005, Robinson was convicted of illegal possession of a handgun and sentenced to 30 to 60 months in prison.

Michael Foglia, his lawyer for that case, did not return calls.

While Robinson was out on bond on that charge, police arrested him and five others in a van in Braddock. Police said they found a handgun and 2 grams of crack cocaine. He was convicted of possession of drugs.

Testimony in Robinson's murder trial ended on Thursday.

Deputy District Attorney Mark V. Tranquilli called more than 40 witnesses. Defense attorney Veronica Brestensky called no witnesses and presented no evidence for a defense.

Robinson does not deny he killed Crawshaw and Morton, but Brestensky argues that he should be charged with second-degree murder because the crimes occurred during the course of another felony.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kevin G. Sasinoski told jurors to bring an overnight bag with a change of clothes to court on Monday. They will be sequestered during deliberations.

If Robinson is convicted of first-degree murder, the trial will move into the penalty phase in which the jury will decide whether he should be sentenced to death.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Shupansky will present evidence including victim impact statements. Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey will present reasons why Robinson should not be sentenced to death.

The District Attorney's Office in November rejected a plea deal that would have sent Robinson to prison for two consecutive life terms.

Even if the jury sentences Robinson to death, he might never receive the lethal injection.

Pennsylvania's death row holds 199 convicted killers, the fourth-most in the country. The state has executed only three inmates since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, with none in the past decade.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@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.