Judge in Robinson Trial Discusses Case With News 11

TOLEDO -- People across the country watched his every move during the highest-profile case Lucas County has ever seen. Now the judge who presided over Father Gerald Robinson's murder trial is talking publicly for the time since the verdict.

Judge Osowik told News 11 Wednesday that sometimes the Robinson trial was "surreal," so it seems almost odd to get back to normal courtroom business. "You know, everybody is cognizant of the trucks being outside and the constant media focus on this particular case," he said, "and some of the sensational aspects of it."

Father Robinson was tried in the 1980 stabbing and choking death of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl. The case had gone cold until investigators viewed, side by side, evidence that had been stored away for 24 years and never viewed together. An officer who is also an artist looked at a letter opener that police believed was the murder weapon, and he thought he saw characteristics of the letter opener in blood transfer stains on an altar cloth that was found on Sister Margaret Ann's body. The cold case heated up and, decades after the nun's death, Father Robinson was charged with the murder. The letter opener belonged to Father Robinson.

Judge Osowik said he expected a tremendous amount of attention would be focused on Father Robinson's case because he was on trial for murdering a nun. But something Judge Osowik said he did not expect was how closely people would be watching him.

"I'm surprised that people knew what color of tie I was wearing. I was surprised by the detail that people pay attention to during a trial like that," he said.

Judge Osowik went to great lengths to make sure the priest's trial would be fair and orderly. He met with the attorneys every other week and even issued a gag order. "We did our best, all of us -- including myself -- that the rules were applied properly," he said. "The law was applied properly."

When the jury reached its verdict, many were surprised by how quickly Judge Osowik read the decision and imposed the sentence of 15 years to life. But Judge Osowik told us, "There was one count. There was no other way to read it."

But did Judge Osowik agree with the verdict? He said, "To the extent that the process is fair for everybody, and they considered all of the evidence, that's up to the jury to make that decision. It's not my decision to say whether it was right or wrong. It's their decision."

We also asked the judge, who is Catholic, if he struggled when dealing with testimony about a ritualistic killing. "I'm a judge first -- United States of Ohio, state of Ohio first -- and my religious backround really has honestly little to do with what the laws of the state of Ohio have to do with this particular case," he said.

Judge Osowik said it was a "humbling experience" presiding over the Robinson case, and it pointed to the "awesome responsibility" of our judicial system.

Tuesday, an attorney for Father Gerald Robinson filed a notice to appeal the jury's verdict. It could be many months before arguments for the appeal are heard.

Posted by PJS