Robinson Jurors Got the Day Off Tuesday, But Lawyers Were in Court

Prosecutor Dean Mandros, defense attorney Alan Konop, and Judge Thomas Osowik on a previous day in court.
Prosecutor Dean Mandros, defense attorney Alan Konop, and Judge Thomas Osowik on a previous day in court.

TOLEDO -- We're getting closer and closer to jury deliberations in the State versus Father Gerald Robinson. Monday the defense rested its case. Jurors had the day off Tuesday, but lawyers were on the job -- hammering out what will and won't go into Judge Thomas Osowik's instructions to the jury before they begin deliberating Father Robinson's fate.

Wednesday there may be one more witness on the stand. If so, it'll be brief testimony, then the closing arguments will begin. After that, the case goes to the jury and it's anybody's guess how long it'll be till they reach a decision.

On Monday, defense attorneys called a forensic anthropologist and a former police chief to the stand. Their questions focused on inconsistencies and mistakes made by experts and the police force.

Dr. Kathleen Reichs, the forensic anthropologist on whose work the TV series "Bones" is based, testified that experts who tested the alleged murder weapon -- a letter opener that belonged to Father Robinson -- by inserting it into a defect in murder victim Sister Margaret Ann Pahl's jaw bone shouldn't have done so before cleaning the bone. Reichs said, "You could expect there could be modification of the defect by sticking something into it. It makes common sense not to do that."

Former TPD police chief Ray Vetter, a Catholic, also testified, disputing the prosecution's claims of a possible cover up. Defense attorney Alan Konop asked, "You did the very best job you could in this case, is that correct?"

Vetter replied, "Tried to."

"This wasn't a Catholic investigation, was it?"

Vetter said, "It was a police investigation of a murder."

When the prosecution and the defense met in the courtroom Tuesday to finalize the jury instructions that'll be read to the 12 jurors after Wednesday's arguments, defense attorney John Thebes said, "Certainly, part of the defense is going to be that the circumstances presented in court are wholly inconsistent with the state's theory in this case."

The prosecution's case relies completely on circumstantial evidence. There was no confession and no eyewitness to the murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl.

The defense argued that the 1980 law on circumstantial evidence should be used because that's when the crime took place. Back then, a jury would have been told not to convict on circumstantial evidence if there was a reasonable theory of innocence.

"You have, as the judge, discretion in order to give this instruction," Thebes told Judge Thomas Osowik. "The crime occurred in 1980. This was the instruction given in 1980."

But prosecutors argued a court ruling threw out that jury instruction in the '90s. Now circumstantial evidence carries as much weight as direct evidence.

Prosecutor Chris Anderson said to the judge, "He's asking you to give an instruction on a law that has been overruled. It was found to be improper, the instruction -- and now they want to basically say we want bad law in front of the jury."

Thebes said, "That's not what we're saying."

"That's exactly what they're saying," Anderson said.

The judge sided with the prosecution. "If it was declared invalid and they're retroactively applying it due to the Supreme Court, how do we keep it in?" Judge Osowik asked.

Normally alternate jurors are released after closing arguments, but not in this case. The judge said, "My inclination, given this case, is to somehow keep the alternates here and available in light of something occurring during deliberations."

News 11's legal analyst, attorney Jerome Phillips, predicts what lies ahead in the closing arguments. "It will get emotional," he said. "You can't help it with a case of this nature. I think that [for] both sides, at some point in time, the arguments will be very emotional. There's a lot at stake. It's a very serious case. It's a high-profile case, and they'll let it all out."

We'll know how accurate that prediction is when closing arguments get underway Wednesday.

Posted by PJS