Penn Hills murder suspect Robinson wasn't considered dangerous by state parole board
By Adam Brandolph
Published: 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 21⁄2- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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