RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - Hearings continued for a second day on Tuesday for Darrell James Robinson, the man convicted and sentenced to death in 2001 for the 1996 murders of three adults and an infant in the community of Poland in Rapides Parish, is back in court in Rapides Parish this week.
Darrell James Robinson arrives for court in Rapides Parish on May 14. (Source: KALB)
Robinson was convicted of the shooting deaths of Billy Lambert, 50, Carol Hooper, 54, Maureen Kelley, 37, and Kelley’s 10-month-old son, Nicholas. Robinson was staying with Lambert at the time and working for him.
Robinson, who has failed in prior appeal attempts, is now trying to have his conviction and sentence vacated based on claims by post-conviction attorneys that the original prosecutor on trial, Mike Shannon, may have withheld evidence from Robinson’s attorney at the time, Mike Small. It's a claim the Rapides Parish District Attorney's Office and Shannon himself have repeatedly denied. Shannon is not allowed to be deposed.
On Tuesday morning, attorneys for Robinson called Susan Herrero to testify. She's a mitigation specialist hired by Robinson's post conviction team who met with witnesses or other people involved in the case to ask them questions.
Herrero interviewed several people between 2010-2016. One of the first people she interviewed was Leroy Goodspeed, the jailhouse snitch who testified in the original trial that Robinson confessed to him. Goodspeed has since died.
Herrero said she tracked Goodspeed down in California where he was living at a halfway house.
"He said he got a deal with Mike Shannon and that we should check the Lafayette prosecutor's file for a letter," said Herrero, alluding to a deal that Goodspeed said he got in another parish for testifying in Rapides Parish.
Herrero wanted to talk with Goodspeed about the "circumstances of the deal," but Goodspeed didn't want to cooperate. The letter that Goodspeed alluded to didn't exist. He also said he didn't want to return to Louisiana.
Herrero also interviewed Alvin Lachney who had knowledge about the former girlfriend of Mark Moras, a person who Robinson's attorneys have hinted at might have been responsible for the crime. Moras also lived with Billy Lambert at one time and had knowledge about his banking habits.
"He said that Mark was violent," said Herrero. Lachney is now dead as well.
In the most interesting part of her testimony, and the most ethically questionable, Herrero testified about interviewing Moras in 2016 while he was in jail in Avoyelles Parish on another matter.
Herrero gave Moras a series of photographs to see if Moras would be willing to talk about his time knowing Lambert and his financial situation. But, another reason she wanted him to look at the photos was to obtain a DNA sample from him without his knowledge to submit for testing.
"Did you tell him he was an alternate suspect?" asked state prosecutor Carla Sigler to Herrero during cross examination.
"No," replied Herrero.
In another exchange, "Did you have any concerns about his constitutional rights?" asked Sigler.
Herrero said that she did not.
Herrero interviewed one more person around the same time, George Hackney, who was familiar with Lambert and his family.
"He explained the family relationships...and a meeting he had with Mike Shannon and he was very firm that he thought Dorris Foster was involved," said Herrero. Foster was the family member who discovered the four dead and called the sheriff's office.
It's important to note that none of Herrero's interviews were recorded when she met with witnesses. But, she says she was often accompanied by another person and the people she interviewed signed off on statements at the end.
Dr. Randell Libby, a DNA analyst testified this afternoon. He compared DNA testing in 1996 with newer tests that have evolved and have been refined that are now available in 2018.
Among the items tested included a red jacket, shorts from Maureen Kelley, blue jeans, Robinson's bed, and an ash tray. Libby said DNA found on the jacket matched a profile consistent with Moras. He said Robinson's DNA was excluded.
During cross examination, prosecutor Hugo Holland asked when the stains on the jacket were deposited. Libby said that could not be determined.
Holland also asked if Libby was aware that Moras lived in the home, to which Libby said he was aware that he spent time there. There was also some back and forth about high velocity spatter on the jacket and Libby stressed that he wasn't a blood spatter expert. Holland also stressed that unidentified stains weren't human blood.
Testimony continues on Wednesday.