Juror dismissed from Penn Hills homicide trial

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A juror was dismissed this morning from the potential death penalty case involving the shooting of Penn Hills police Officer Michael Crawshaw.

Juror No. 12, a man, on Friday told the staff of Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kevin G. Sasinoski that he received a cell phone call Friday during lunch purportedly from Harold Hayes, a reporter for KDKA-TV. A voice mail on the phone included a message that the caller was seeking a comment on the ongoing trial of Ronald Robinson.

The Allegheny County Sheriff's Office did an investigation over the weekend, Judge Sasinoski said, and learned that the phone call was actually made by the juror's son "for unknown reasons."

Judge Sasinoski removed the juror from the case and told the rest of the panel that it should not allow the fictitious phone call, which he characterized as a "crank call" to influence their deliberations.

The judge also told the jurors that their personal information is being guarded for the duration of the trial. One of four jurors chosen as alternates will replace the dismissed juror.

Robinson is accused of killing Officer Crawshaw on Dec. 6, 2009, as he responded to a 911 call for shots fired at 201 Johnston Road.

The prosecution contends that Robinson killed Danyal Morton, who lived in the house, over a $500 drug debt and that he shot Officer Crawshaw as he fled the scene. Officer Crawshaw was sitting inside his police cruiser waiting for backup after he was dispatched to a call for help at the residence.

If Robinson is found guilty of first-degree murder, the jury must then decide if he should be sentenced to die.

This morning, Penn Hills police Sgt. Patrick Manning testified that he found the assault rifle Robinson allegedly used on the hillside behind a home at 182 Johnston Road the morning after the shooting.

Thomas Morgan, who works for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office crime lab, testified that Officer Crawshaw's vehicle was shot at least 11 times by the assault rifle, and possibly as many as 13.

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Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620.


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