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Trial begins in beating death of Hudson man

Carter F. McCall | BDN
Carter F. McCall | BDN
Peter Robinson leaves the Penobscot Judicial Center after a judge heard pretrial motions on Thursday, March 21, 2013.
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — The murder trial of a Bradford man began Monday at the Penobscot Judicial Center.

Peter Robinson, 49, is accused of beating to death David Trask, 71, of Hudson on Nov. 12, 2011, with a 15-pound wrecking bar in an alleged dispute over a right-of-way. Robinson, who is free on bail, has claimed he acted in self-defense when he killed Trask with a pinch bar, according to the affidavit.

Robinson pleaded not guilty on Dec. 2, 2011, to intentional or knowing murder and depraved indifference murder.

A jury of nine men and six women, including three alternates, was sworn in and heard preliminary instructions from Superior Court Justice William Anderson. Opening arguments are expected to be presented before lunch in the second-floor courtroom packed with family and friends of the defendant and the victim.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson told jurors that on at least three occasions in the 2½ years before Trask’s death, Robinson threatened to kill him and/or his brothers. The prosecutor said that the defendant wanted to create “his own personal, private fiefdom” on his property and keep others, especially hunters, out of the remote area.

“He waged a one-man war against trespassers,” Benson said of Robinson, who posted his land, installed game cameras and put a cable with a lock on it across the shared entrance road to his property and the parcels owned by others.

“[On Nov. 12, 2011,] the defendant grabbed the wrecking bar, knocked David Trask to the ground, broke his ribs, and then, while David Trask was lying on the ground defenseless and unarmed, the defendant literally beat David Trask’s head in,” the prosecutor said in his opening statement.

Benson said that Robinson’s contention that he acted in self defense was not valid.

“Under Maine law you have an obligation to retreat from a threat if you can do so safely unless you are in your home,” he said. “If you provoked the incident, you are not entitled to use deadly force”

Trask had purchased a lot with a right-of-way on Robinson’s property in 2011, according to a previous BDN report.

Robinson has been free on bail since just before Christmas 2011. His bail conditions required that he live in York County and have no contact with a long list of relatives of the victim and potential witnesses.

Last week, Anderson modified those conditions in his chambers so it would be more convenient for Robinson to attend the trial. Hallett said Thursday after the hearing on pretrial motions that he believed the new conditions would ensure his client’s safety during the trial.

The trial is scheduled to last six days.

Correction: A previous version of this story said a jury of nine men and seven women, including four alternates, was sworn in. A jury of nine men and six women, including three alternates, was sworn in.

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