Lawyers argue imprisoned Toledo priest needs new trial - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Lawyers argue imprisoned Toledo priest needs new trial

Lisa Rantala Lisa Rantala
Fr. Gerald Robinson is in prison for killing Sr. Margaret Ann Pahl in 1980. Fr. Gerald Robinson is in prison for killing Sr. Margaret Ann Pahl in 1980.
Robinson's attorney, John Donahue, believes his client deserves a new trial. Robinson's attorney, John Donahue, believes his client deserves a new trial.

TOLEDO -- We could know in the next few months if a Toledo priest convicted of murder will receive a new trial.

Fr. Gerald Robinson's lawyers are working on an appeal, saying the original jury did not hear the full story, which indicates another killer, reports News 11's Lisa Rantala.

For 15 minutes straight, Robinson's attorney explained why his client is innocent and gave the name of another priest he said really killed Sr. Margaret Ann Pahl. Pahl was killed the day before Easter in 1980.

The story came out two years ago. It was argued that Robinson killed Pahl with a letter opener. It's a story Robinson's attorney, John Donahue, says stemmed from a prejudicial trial and is simply not true.

"The overriding reason why this conviction must be overturned is because Fr. Robinson is innocent," Donahue says, arguing that it was actually a priest named Fr. Swiatecki who killed Pahl.

Donahue claims Swiatecki, now deceased, strangled the sister after she became upset that the Good Friday service was cut short. He said Swiatecki stabbed the nun with a pair of sewing scissors that were never found. He said it was Swiatecki's footsteps that were heard after the murder and not those of Robinson.

"Everything that I just told the Court of Appeals was not told to the jury," Donahue says.

Not everyone agrees.

"The jury heard the evidence as to the facts and decided what they felt what the facts were and what the evidence proved," argues Dean Mandross, prosecuting attorney.

Prosecutors call the arguments made for the appeal "wishful hoping." They say Swiatecki was ruled out as a suspect because his DNA did not match the fluids found on the sister's clothing.

Both sides feel confident the three-judge panel will rule in their favor.

As for the 77-year-old Robinson, we're told he's leaving it to God.

"He said, 'Young man, don't ever question God's will. I'm here for a reason. It's just that we don't know it.' Those are not the words of a murderer," Donahue argues.

The appellate judges must now go over Monday's arguments and trial testimony, examine evidence and then determine what laws apply in this case. Both sides expect a ruling in the next two to three months.

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