TOLEDO -- Two women who are expected to testify in Father Gerald Robinson's murder trial took the witness stand Thursday during a hearing to determine whether they can be considered "experts" in their fields. Judge Thomas Osowik ruled that both are experts and they will be allowed to testify at trial -- one as a witness for the prosecution, the other as a witness for the defense.
The hearing revealed for the first time the scope of the evidence in the case.
Father Gerald Robinson was arrested on April 23, 2004, for the murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl during Easter weekend in 1980. Her body was discovered in a chapel at Mercy Hospital, covered by an altar cloth, in what investigators have described as a "ritualistic" murder. Robinson was always a suspect in Sister Pahl's death, but was never charged until 2004.
The first witness to testify on Thursday was Paulette Sutton from the University of Tennessee. She gives lectures on bloodstain pattern analysis and has even co-authored a book on the topic. The blood transfer patterns are considered a crucial part of the prosecution's case.
Investigators believe Robinson used a dagger-shaped letter opener to kill Pahl. Sutton examined the letter opener for the prosecution. While she did not talk about her findings today, it's believed that she will testify in the trial that the blood patterns found on an altar cloth match the suspected murder weapon. That's important to the state's case because the letter opener belonged to Father Robinson.
The defense questioned the reliability of blood transfer patterns and asked if another expert who looked at the same evidence could come to a different conclusion. "We can reproduce the patterns that we talk about in blood stain pattern analysis," said Sutton. "I may disagree with another analyst, but I don't think that makes the field unreliable. It just means that two people are in disagreement."
Thursday afternoon, Dr. Kathy Reichs also took the stand. She's a forensic anthropologist, and the new television show "Bones" on the Fox network is based on her work. The defense wants her to testify as expert on Father Robinson's behalf.
"With trauma analysis, we would look at the bones to determine if there's a gunshot wound, sharp instrument trauma, blunt instrument trauma," Reichs said in reference to her field of expertise.
The prosecution questioned whether Reichs is truly an expert, given how much of her time she spends writing fiction and doing consulting work for the "Bones" TV show.
"I comment on the scripts. I don't write them," Reichs responded.
Both Paulette Sutton and Dr. Kathy Reichs are expected to testify again at Robinson's murder trial, and some of what they have to say could help decide if Robinson is guilty or innocent.
Judge Osowik still has to rule on two motions in the Father Robinson case, including whether statements the priest made to detectives in 2004 can be used at trial.
Robinson's murder trial is scheduled to begin April 17th. If convicted, he could get life in prison.
Count on News 11 to follow this story as it develops.
Posted by AEB