Re-trial process starts for Robinson in 2006 fire death

Frank Jerome Robinson (Source: KDOC)
Frank Jerome Robinson (Source: KDOC)(WIBW)
Published: Jan. 10, 2019 at 6:28 PM CST
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The attorney defending Frank "Chicago" Jerome Robinson, whose conviction was overturned in the death of a woman killed in an apartment house fire started by arson, asked a judge on Thursday to place him on house arrest while awaiting re-trial.

If not house arrest, KiAnn Caprice, the attorney representing Robinson, asked the judge to consider modifying Robinson's $250,000 surety bond.

Shawnee County District Court Judge Cheryl Rios didn't place him on house arrest nor trim his bond.

Robinson's bond remained at $250,000 with surety.

Robinson loudly complained as corrections officers led him down the courthouse hallway and back to incarceration.

On Jan. 2, the Kansas Court of Appeals ruled that Robinson should receive a new trial.

"We agree with the (Shawnee County) district court that Robinson must receive a new trial based on the deficient and prejudicial performance by his defense counsel based on the lack of effort in developing any insight or strategy on the cause and origin evidence offered by the state," the appellate decision said.

During Robinson's brief hearing on Thursday, Caprice asked the judge for a short amount of time so she could "reconnect" with Robinson about his criminal case.

Robinson next will appear in court on Jan. 28 for a status conference.

The start-up date for Robinson's re-trial wasn't scheduled on Thursday.

To meet the 150-day "speedy trial" deadline, the Robinson re-trial must start by June 27. That takes into account that the 150-day tally doesn't start until Jan. 28, the date of the hearing that Robinson requested.

Robinson originally was convicted on Aug. 10, 2009, of reckless second-degree murder and aggravated arson in district court.

Marvina Washington, 53, was killed in the fire at 427 S.W. Tyler on Aug. 8, 2006. Robinson, then 30, was arrested a day later.

Robinson initially was charged in U.S. District Court in the case, but that later was dismissed on April 4, 2007, due to lack of jurisdiction.

The Shawnee County district attorney’s office filed charges of first-degree murder and aggravated arson on March 19, 2009. After his conviction, Robinson was sentenced to 36 years and six months in prison.

That conviction was overturned six years later on Aug. 19, 2016, when Chief Judge Evelyn Wilson ruled that Robinson received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. His conviction was vacated and he was scheduled for a new trial, but the prosecution appealed the ruling.

The convictions were affirmed by the Kansas Court of Appeals on direct appeal, then Robinson filed a motion alleging he received ineffective assistance of counsel.

In the brief filed by District Attorney Michael Kagay, he contended Robinson’s defense attorney wasn’t ineffective for failing to move to suppress Robinson’s statement; for failing to impeach a Topeka police detective and a state fire marshal; for failing to present “testimony from a dead witness;” the Robinson attorney didn’t prevent Robinson from testifying and wasn’t ineffective for not advising Robinson to not to testify; and there wasn’t cumulative error.

Jean Phillips, director of the Project for Innocence at the University of Kansas School of Law, said in that brief the district court erred in not finding trial counsel ineffective for failing to suppress statements, impeach more critical witnesses, present exculpatory testimony, put Robinson on the witness stand, and stipulating to elements of the offense.

Robinson, 43, was booked into Shawnee County Jail on Tuesday and remained there Thursday in lieu of bond.