May 27, 2018
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Jurors in crowbar murder trial told to return Tuesday to resume deliberations

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Jurors in the murder trial of a Bradford man accused of beating a Hudson man to death with a large crowbar left the Penobscot Judicial Center about 7:40 p.m. Monday without reaching a verdict.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated about two hours and 20 minutes before informing Superior Court Justice William Anderson that they wanted to go home for the night.

Anderson told them to resume deliberations at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Peter Robinson, 50, is accused of killing David P. Trask, 71, on Nov. 12, 2011, in an alleged dispute over a right of way.

He testified Thursday that he acted in self-defense. Robinson told 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. He told the jury that Trask came at him with a large crowbar when Robinson confronted him about leaving a chain gate down.

Robinson testified that he struck Trask first in the ribs, then on the chin, and once he was on the ground, across the face. The medical examiner said last week that he could not determine whether the second or third strike was the fatal blow.

The defendant and his wife, Cheryl Robinson, 54, of Bradford, both told the jury that they felt harassed by the victim and other members of the Trask family. Cheryl Robinson testified Friday that the couple had decided to sell their property and move after the victim bought an adjoining piece of land in April 2011.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who prosecuted the case, said in his closing argument Monday afternoon that Robinson committed not cold-blooded but “hot-blooded murder.” The prosecutor described the defendant as “an angry, angry, angry man ready to snap.”

Benson dismissed Robinson’s claim of self-defense.

“It doesn’t pass the straight-face test,” he said.

Benson said that once Robinson delivered the first blow, which broke several of Trask’s ribs, he had a duty to retreat because he could safely do so. Because he did not, but instead delivered two more blows, one that “pulverized” the victim’s face, Robinson did not act in self-defense.

“No matter how you slice this case, it is a clear case of murder,” Benson told the jury. “It is the trifecta of murder. It is intentional murder. It is knowing murder. It is depraved indifference murder.”

Robinson was indicted by a Penobscot County grand jury in November 2011 on one count each of intentional or knowing murder and depraved indifference murder.

Defense attorney Thomas Hallett of Portland referred to the victim, his brothers and other family members as “a band of bullies who hunted where they wanted and when they wanted” in his closing argument.

“This is a case of self-defense,” Hallett said. “Pete had no other option but to act the way he did. He was reacting to a continuing threat of death.”

The defense attorney said that Robinson could not have retreated from the confrontation with David Trask because “you can’t outrun a bullet.”

“[Robinson] had a reasonable belief that David Trask had a gun in his pocket or in a holster on his belt,” Hallett told the jury. “Peter Robinson was justified in acting the way he acted. David Trask was not justified in acting the way he acted.”

On Monday morning, the grandson of the victim denied that he and his father discussed killing the defendant.

Darrick Trask, who was called as a witness for the defense, testified that he was upset that his paternal grandfather had been killed but said he did not recall discussing a plan to kill Robinson with his father, David A. Trask, 50, of Hudson.

Darrick Trask told police when he was arrested last summer for setting a car on fire in an unrelated incident that his father had asked him to kill Robinson, according to a motion filed last month by Hallett.

David A. Trask took the stand Wednesday and vehemently denied the allegation.

“I am not a murderer, sir. Your client is, in my opinion,” the son of the victim told the defense attorney under cross-examination.

Darrick Trask pleaded guilty in November to aggravated criminal mischief, a Class C crime, in connection with the car fire, according to Bangor Daily News archives. He was sentenced to prison for two years with all but five months suspended and one year of probation and was ordered to pay more than $4,200 in restitution. He is now on probation after serving most of his sentence while awaiting the resolution of the case.

In an alleged second murder-for-hire plot, Anderson ruled Monday morning, before the jury was brought into the packed courtroom, that two of the victim’s brothers could not testify about what they might have planned while Robinson was awaiting trial.

Anderson said the men could offer little information without getting into areas in which the men’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination would be at risk.

On Friday, two of Trask’s four brothers were asked questions about an alleged murder-for-hire plot before the jury entered the courtroom. Keith Trask, 68, and George Trask, 66, both of Corinth, on the advice of their attorneys — Hunter Tzovarras and Michael Rair, respectively — refused to answer questions about allegations that they hired a man to kill Robinson and dump his body at sea last year.

Hallett has stated in at least one court document that the two men and one of their wives hatched a murder-for-hire plot in the first half of 2012.

No one has been charged in the alleged scheme outlined in court documents. No one has been granted immunity from prosecution.

Robinson has been free on bail since just before Christmas 2011.

In addition to instructions on murder and self-defense, the judge told jurors they could convict Robinson of manslaughter if they found him not guilty of murder.

If convicted of murder, Robinson faces 25 years to life in prison. The maximum sentence for manslaughter is 30 years.

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