Archive for Saturday, December 1, 2001

Teen’s videotaped confession stands, appeals court rules

December 1, 2001


The videotaped murder confession used to convict a then-14-year-old Franklin County youth was upheld by a federal appeals court Thursday, allowing his waiver of Miranda rights to stand despite his mother's efforts to invoke them.

Jerry Lee Robinson was 14 in 1994 when he became the youngest person ever to be certified for trial as an adult in Franklin County. He was convicted of second-degree murder the next year for killing Clyde R. Crowley, 57, in September 1994 by hitting him in the head with a golf club.

Robinson's defense argued that Crowley was the aggressor in the incident, confronting Robinson and his friends in a city park, then attacking one of Robinson's friends with a baseball bat.

The teen-ager then hit Crowley with the golf club so hard that the appeals court described it as being "embedded" in the man's skull.

Crowley died in an Ottawa hospital.

Questioned as a witness at the scene by an Ottawa Police officer, Robinson said, "I ran up behind the guy and hit him with a golf club."

The officer then informed Robinson of his Miranda right to remain silent; his mother demanded that police questioning end until an attorney was present.

Robinson was taken into custody. In the presence of Robinson's stepfather, another officer again read the rights. Robinson agreed to waive those rights before his mother returned to the police station, though the confession was made in her presence.

After trial, Robinson was sentenced to 55 months in prison a departure from the standard 77-month sentence because of his age and his contention Crowley had instigated the altercation.

On appeal, Robinson's attorneys argued that his mother's initial invocation of Miranda rights should have been honored.

The appeals court disagreed.

"If a defendant invokes his or her right to remain silent, the interrogation must stop immediately and the right must be scrupulously honored," Judge Mary Beck Briscoe wrote on behalf of the Denver-based appellate panel. "This does not mean an interrogation resumed at a later time is invalidated if the defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived the right to be silent at this later time and the defendant's right to be silent was scrupulously honored while it was invoked."

The court also rejected Robinson's appeal that the trial was prejudiced by a prosecutor's characterization of him as a gang member. Becker noted the trial court had instructed the jury to disregard that statement.

Mark Ohlemeier, a spokesman for Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall's office, said Friday that Robinson was released from prison more than a year ago, but proceeded with the already-filed appeal.

"If they had ruled for him, it could've changed his criminal history," Ohlemeier said.

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