Witness in Penn Hills death penalty case will stay in jail
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A key witness in the death penalty case against a man accused of killing Penn Hills police Officer Michael Crawshaw will be held in the Allegheny County Jail until the trial begins late next month.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kevin G. Sasinsoki ordered that the man, who did not show up for court on Monday -- the original trial date for Ronald Robinson -- to be held without bond pending his testimony in the case.
The witness, whose name is being withheld because of safety concerns, was apprehended by U.S. marshals on Tuesday night on a material witness warrant, and Judge Sasinoski held a hearing on the matter Wednesday.
Deputy District Attorney Mark V. Tranquilli argued that the witness should be held without bond to ensure his presence at the trial. The man was inside the home of the first victim in the case, Danyal Morton, when he was shot on Dec. 6, 2009.
Mr. Robinson is accused of killing Morton over a drug debt.
Officer Crawshaw, who was responding to a 911 call from the house, was shot a short time later while sitting inside his patrol car outside the house on Johnston Road.
According to a court filing, the witness had cooperated with the case in the months leading up to trial but failed to show up for a meeting scheduled with prosecutors last month.
When a detective attempted to find the witness, he was told the man had left the area to avoid testifying.
In a phone call, the witness expressed fear for his safety, and on Wednesday, his attorney, Michael Machen, said, "I have grave concerns for my client's safety."
Mr. Machen argued that his client had not been subpoenaed, and therefore was under no legal obligation to show up on Monday.
Judge Sasinoski disagreed and said he did not believe the witness would appear for court without being held.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Nov. 12.
First Published October 25, 2012 12:00 am