Bradford man denied new trial in crowbar beating death

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Posted June 27, 2013, at 7:39 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A Superior Court justice Thursday denied a new trial for a Bradford man convicted of manslaughter on April 2 in the crowbar beating death of his neighbor.

A jury of seven men and five women at the Penobscot Judicial Center found Peter Robinson, 50, not guilty of murder but guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter in the November 12, 2011, death of David P. Trask, 71, of Hudson.

Superior Court Justice William Anderson did not set a date for Robinson’s sentencing.

After the two-hour long hearing, Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, and defense attorney Thomas Hallett of Portland said the judge had told them in chambers that he hoped to sentence Robinson next month.

The defense motion for a new trial was sealed and not available for public review. Hallett said earlier this month that he asked that it be sealed because it identified some jurors by name.

Benson opposed the motion but that document also was sealed.

All of Thursday’s hearing except for closing arguments and Anderson’s decision was closed to the public and the press. Family and friends of the victim and defendant attended the public portion of the hearing.

Hallett argued in his closing statement that Robinson should have a new trial because a female juror’s husband attended the trial, interacted with other spectators, including members of the victim’s family, and discussed the case with each other at home.

The defense attorney also alleged that during the two weeks between the time the jury was selected and the trial began, the jury learned things about the case that influenced her view of the defendant prior to opening statements.

The female juror testified during the closed hearing Thursday that she and her husband did not discuss the case, Benson told the judge in his closing argument.

“There is no proof this juror got extraneous information from her husband or anyone at her place of employment before the trial,” Anderson said in rejecting the motion for a new trial. “I have the utmost confidence in this juror, and therefore, the utmost confidence in this entire verdict.”

The jury deliberated for about eight hours over two days before announcing its verdict. The trial began March 25.

Superior Court Justice William Anderson, who presided at Robinson’s trial and will consider the motion for a new trial, ordered that the defendant be held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail while awaiting sentencing. A sentencing date is expected to be set after the judge rules on the motion for a new trial.

Robinson, who was released on bail about six weeks after Trask was killed, testified during the trial that he acted in self-defense, telling the jury that he thought the cellphone holder on Trask’s belt was a holster with a gun in it and he feared Trask would shoot him.

If he had been convicted of murder, Robinson would have faced 25 years to life in prison. He faces up to 30 years in prison on the manslaughter conviction.

Robinson has no prior criminal record, according to a previously published report.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/06/27/news/bangor/judge-to-consider-whether-bradford-man-gets-new-trial-in-crowbar-beating-death/ printed on August 21, 2014