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Archive for Friday, July 26, 2002

Judge scrutinizes searches in serial murder case

July 26, 2002

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— A judge agreed to disallow evidence that police obtained when they searched a pickup truck belonging to accused serial killer John E. Robinson Sr. but upheld a search of his computer files.

Johnson County District Judge John Anderson III ruled that police took Robinson's pickup truck without a warrant and waited 12 days before getting a warrant to search it.

Any evidence from that search on June 15, 2000, will not be allowed at Robinson's trial, Anderson said in a ruling filed late Tuesday afternoon.

The ruling did not indicate what evidence might be affected.

Robinson, 58, is charged in Johnson County with killing three women, one who disappeared in 1985 and two whose bodies were found two years ago in barrels on his Linn County property. He also is charged in Cass County, Mo., with the murders of two women and a girl whose bodies were found in barrels in a storage locker.

His trial had been scheduled to begin Jan. 14, but it was delayed until Sept. 16 because he switched lawyers about a year ago.

Anderson upheld prosecutors in several other matters, including a ruling that the seizure of five computers and search of 91,000 computer files from Robinson's home was legal.

That computer information and other evidence taken from Robinson's Olathe house, a storage locker and several other locations will be allowed at his trial.

Officials said they seized 1,000 of the 91,000 files they searched and argued that it was necessary to search all the files to determine which contained relevant evidence.

Anderson also said that an earlier search of Robinson's truck on June 2, 2000, was legal. Pieces of rope and several pairs of gloves taken at that time will be admissible at trial.

Robinson's lawyers have argued that much of the evidence taken by police in the early stages of the investigation was illegally obtained.

The defense also said many items seized in the searches were not specifically listed in the search warrant requests, but Anderson ruled that except for the second search of the truck, all the evidence seized was either covered by the warrants or investigators had good cause to take it.

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