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Archive for Thursday, August 24, 2000

Judge denies request to close hearing

Hearing to be in October for accused ‘barrel bodies’ killer

August 24, 2000

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— A judge on Wednesday denied a defense request to bar media access to the preliminary hearing of murder suspect John Edward Robinson Sr.

"At this point I see no reason to close these proceedings," said Johnson County District Judge John Anderson III.

Anderson granted 10 of 11 other defense motions, including one that allows Robinson to wear a business suit rather than a jail jumpsuit during court proceedings.

Anderson did not rule on a motion for additional discovery, because Johnson County Attorney Paul Morrison has allowed the defense access to information he has.

Robinson's attorney, Christian Zoller of the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit, argued that media access to Robinson's Oct. 2 hearing would prejudice potential jurors. He said the case has already received a massive amount of publicity, making it difficult for his client to get a fair trial.

Robinson attended Wednesday's hearing wearing a blue business suit. He said nothing during the 30-minute proceedings.

Robinson is charged with two counts of capital murder in Kansas and three counts of first-degree murder in Missouri in the deaths of five women found in barrels in June. Two bodies were found on Robinson's property near La Cygne, and three more were found in barrels in a Raymore, Mo., storage locker.

He is also charged in Kansas with one count of first-degree murder in the death of Lisa Stasi, who disappeared in January 1985. Her body has not been recovered. Robinson also is charged with aggravated interference with parental custody for allegedly taking Stasi's 4-month-old daughter.

The Oct. 2 hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence to bind Robinson over for trial.

The Kansas City Star reported Wednesday that Stasi's daughter was adopted by Robinson's brother and sister-in-law.

Tiffany Stasi, 15, has grown up as "Heather Robinson." The Star did not identify the girl's adoptive parents but said they could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The girl's name was made public in a witness list filed by Johnson County prosecutors.

Morrison, who has emphasized the need to protect the girl's privacy, said he knew her name eventually would have to be made public, although he held off for some time.

"We have consciously attempted to wait in endorsing some names out of respect to protect people's privacy, particularly Tiffany and her family," Morrison said.

The Star said it learned in June that Tiffany was brought up by Robinson's brother and his wife. But out of respect for the teen-ager's privacy, the newspaper chose not to report her new name and other information.

But with Tuesday's filing, her identity became public record.

"Tiffany Stasi, a.k.a. Heather Robinson" was one of more than 300 new witnesses on the list, which also now includes the names of her adoptive parents. Morrison said the list probably had 500 names of "anyone who's tangentially related to that case."

Prosecutors are required to name any witnesses they plan to call so Robinson will know who his accusers are. Although Morrison does not plan to call Tiffany, he would not be able to call her if he needed to later without naming her as an endorsed witness. He would not elaborate about who he might ask to testify.

Carl Stasi, who married Lisa Stasi about a month before Tiffany was born, said he learned that Tiffany's identity had been made public when the Star called him Tuesday night.

He was upset, saying, "You can't even imagine how I feel."

Prosecutors think Robinson arranged the girl's adoption. Morrison has said Robinson's brother and his wife saw documents purporting to be legal adoption papers and did not know the girl had been taken.

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