In 'medical mystery,' defendant in Penn Hills officer killing expected to make full recovery


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The man who faces trial for killing a Penn Hills police officer three years ago is being called a "medical mystery" and will go to trial on Nov. 26.

Ronald Robinson, 35, who was found unresponsive in his cell early Tuesday morning and intubated at UPMC Mercy, was semi-conscious this morning and is expected to make a full recovery, Deputy District Attorney Mark V. Tranquilli said.

He reported that an Allegheny County homicide detective spoke with Robinson's doctors early this morning and that they expect him to be released back to the jail by Friday.

No one seems to know what caused Robinson to become unresponsive in his cell.

Doctors pumped his stomach and ran a toxicology screen on his blood and found the only thing in his system was marijuana -- a common contraband found in the jail, Mr. Tranquilli said.

"It was a medical mystery exactly what happened to him," the prosecutor said.

Mr. Robinson's attorney, Veronica Brestensky, said Allegheny County Jail personnel told her about 8:30 a.m. that her client had some apparent brain activity overnight. She said she the hospital has provided her no information about her client's condition.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kevin G. Sasinoski signed an order late this morning giving her permission to visit her client and speak with his physicians.

As the judge was setting the new trial date, the defense objected.

"I don't see how that can happen," said Patrick Thomassey, who will represent Robinson if the case gets to the penalty phase. "We have a guy who was on life support 24 hours ago. I don't know whether he's competent to stand trial."

"If he's being returned to jail, the judge said, "one would assume he's physically fit and ready to go."

Jury selection will begin the Monday after Thanksgiving and the trial will follow.

Robinson is accused of killing Penn Hills police Officer Michael Crawshaw, who responded to a 911 call on Johnston Road the night of Dec. 6, 2009.

Police say Robinson was inside a home in the 200 block, killed a man named Danyal Morton over a drug debt and shot Officer Crawshaw as he fled.

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Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620. Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944 and on Twitter: @borntolede. First Published November 14, 2012 2:15 PM


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