Attorneys for Darrell James Robinson claim DA's office has failed to respond to court orders for months
Attorneys for Darrell James Robinson, the man convicted for the 1994 murders of a family of four, including an infant, in the community of Poland, have filed a "motion to set deadlines" because they claim the Rapides Parish District Attorney's Office has failed for months to respond to court orders necessary for moving the case forward.
Robinson was convicted and sentenced to death in 1996. But, his case is back in the spotlight because he and post-conviction attorneys are seeking a "motion to vacate" his conviction and death penalty sentence.
The hearing for that matter was supposed to get underway last week, but the Louisiana Supreme Court granted the DA's Office more time to work on its case.
Robinson's attorneys believe there was a Brady violation during the original trial and claim that the prosecutor on the case, Mike Shannon, didn't provide all necessary evidence to the defense attorney on the case, Mike Small.
This "motion to set deadlines" filed on July 20 states two things.
(1) On May 18, 2016 the court ordered the state to respond to discovery, including depositions, requests for admissions, and interrogatories. Two months have passed and the DA's office has failed to respond.
(2) On June 10, 2016, the court ordered the state to respond to subpoenas. Six weeks have passed and the DA's office has failed to respond.
Attorneys for Robinson also say that the court set a May 23 deadline for the DA's office to object to their discovery requests. But, the state did not meet the deadline. On June 2, the timeline was extended to June 10, yet the state still did not respond during that time period. So, on June 20, the DA's office promised that it would "file appropriate written objections shortly." But, again, one month after that promise, it still hasn't been done.
Hugo Holland, a commissioned Assistant District Attorney who has experience with post-conviction relief, has recently been brought on to help the DA's office.
"Not many assistant DA's around the state that have that,” said Holland. “So just recently the elected DA in Rapides Parish elected me to come to handle this case because it is an extremely significant case and he wants to make sure Darrell Robinson stays on death row."
He said the delay is because he is playing catch-up and is familiarizing himself with a case that dates back more than 20 years.
"I didn't know anything about the facts of the case,” said Holland. “I didn't know anything about the filings that have been made. And there were tens of thousands of pages of documents that I had to become familiar with before I was able to jump in with both feet and start filing my own motions."
Attorneys for Robinson have also filed a response to an Article 507 argument from the DA's office. The DA's office claims that Mike Shannon doesn't have to be deposed because Article 507 prohibits a lawyer from revealing information about a former client.
Robinson's attorneys say that they're (1) not seeking information about a client, (2) arguing that the state waived privilege, and (3) Article 507 doesn't apply to law enforcement personnel that they're looking to depose.
This was Holland's response to these claims:
"What you will find is 10 to 15 years after the conviction they try to basically throw dirt in the eyes of a judge to have a judge undo a jury verdict. So all these wild accusations of the defense of disorganization or hidden evidence or weak case that's the same allegation that every criminal defense lawyer in every capital post-conviction relief case makes that's ever existed in the state of Louisiana. This is nothing new."
Holland also told us that so far Judge Patricia Koch has made rulings in this case that have not been favorable to the state. He said he is prepared to take the rulings to the state supreme court if he believes that she is legally and factually incorrect.
These matters will be addressed on Tuesday, July 26 at a hearing.