After more than a decade of preparation, lawyers for convicted serial killer John E. Robinson Sr. got a little more than one hour Tuesday to make their case for a new trial.
During oral arguments before the Kansas Supreme Court, the defense raised a multitude of factors they say prevented Robinson from getting a fair trial.
Attorneys for the state countered that Robinson’s 2002 prosecution in Johnson County was handled fairly and his convictions and death sentence should be upheld.
The justices questioned prosecutors about how they construction the two capital murder charges that put Robinson on death row. In each count, prosecutors cited the same deaths of four other women in Missouri as being were part of a continuous scheme or course of conduct, one of the factors that allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty under Kansas law.
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If the court finds that structure to be a problem, the state could lose one of Robinson’s two capital murder convictions. Jurors also convicted Robinson of first-degree murder in a third woman’s death after the longest criminal trial in Kansas history.
Robinson, now 71, killed the three women over a 15-year period.
He later pleaded guilty in Cass County to killing five other women and was sentenced to life in prison in Missouri.
The Johnson County convictions — the subject of Tuesday’s hearing — involved the deaths of a 27-year-old Michigan woman, Suzette Trouten, and a 21-year-old Indiana woman, Izabela Lewicka. Both moved to the Kansas City area after meeting Robinson online.
Their bodies were found in June 2000 stuffed inside barrels on property Robinson owned in Linn County, Kan.
Robinson also was found guilty in Kansas of killing Lisa Stasi, a 19-year-old Kansas City woman last seen by her family in 1985. Her body has not been found, but authorities discovered that her infant daughter had been raised by members of Robinson’s family after he arranged an adoption that they believed was legitimate.
Kansas has not executed an inmate since the state re-instituted the death penalty in 1994.
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