Defendant in officer's killing on life support
The man scheduled to stand trial this month on charges that he killed a Penn Hills police officer is in a Pittsburgh hospital on life support.
Ronald Robinson, 35, was found unresponsive in his cell on the eighth floor of the Allegheny County Jail around 4:30 a.m. when corrections officers went to wake him to get ready for court.
Jury selection in Robinson's death penalty trial was supposed to begin Tuesday before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kevin G. Sasinoski. It has been put on hold, and the parties in the case are to convene this morning.
Officer Michael Crawshaw, 32, was shot to death on Dec. 6, 2009, after responding to a 911 call at a Penn Hills home.
Attorney Veronica Brestensky, who represents Robinson, said she first learned of her client's condition from the judge's staff. It was reported as a suicide attempt, but she has seen no evidence of that.
According to test results, Robinson had nothing out of the ordinary found in his blood or stomach, and his heart was functioning fine. Still, he was intubated and unconscious.
"It seems like no one has any answers as to what's going on here," Ms. Brestensky said.
Jail warden Orlando Harper referred calls for comment to a county spokeperson. Spokesman Kevin Evanto said officials won't discuss the medical condition of any inmate and that they're continuing to gather information.
Ms. Brestensky was concerned that no one in Robinson's family was notified by the jail about what happened. It was only after the court notified the attorneys, that Robinson's mother learned the situation.
Judge Sasinoski signed an order giving the woman permission to visit her son at UPMC Mercy, where he is under guard and handcuffed to the bed.
Throughout the day Tuesday, there was much discussion as to who would ultimately be responsible for making any medical decisions for Robinson.
Andrew Szefi, the Allegheny County solicitor, said he could not talk about Robinson's case specifically, but that, in general, the next of kin would be responsible.
The protocol would be for the next of kin to petition the court to be appointed guardian. At that point, that individual could make the necessary decisions.
Ms. Brestensky said her client had no medical issues and was only taking medicine for high blood pressure. He had been shot twice in the past, but she did not believe he had any residual effects from those.
Robinson's nephew, who is on leave from military service, visited him Monday at the jail and described him as hopeful and in good spirits about the trial, Ms. Brestensky said.
Robinson's mother, too, said she spoke with him Monday evening, and again, he seemed fine.
Although Robinson was initially held in segregation at the jail after he was charged, he was most recently in a regular pod.
Ms. Brestensky said he saved up his commissary and cooked for his friends, and that the correctional officers seemed to like him. He never had any complaints with his treatment, she said.
According to police, Robinson shot and killed Danyal Morton, 40, over a $500 drug debt. Officer Crawshaw was responding to a 911 call on Johnston Road in Penn Hills when he was shot in his patrol car waiting for backup.
Robinson, who has a lengthy criminal record, was on parole for a previous firearms charge and was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet.
He was arrested early the next day, and police said he gave a full confession.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
First Published November 14, 2012 12:00 am