Rapides judge denies death row inmate's post-conviction effort
Convicted quadruple murderer, Darrell James Robinson, will remain on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola after 9th Judicial District Judge Patricia Koch denied his effort on Tuesday to have his conviction and sentence vacated. The decision comes nearly two years after a several months long hearing on the matter.
Robinson shot and killed a family of four in the Rapides Parish community of Poland in May 1996 and was sentenced to death in March 2001. He was temporarily staying at the time with Billy Lambert, one of the people he murdered. He also killed Lambert's sister, Carol Hooper, Hooper's daughter, Maureen Kelly, and Kelly's infant son, Nicholas Kelly.
Robinson's post-conviction attorneys argued that Robinson had ineffective counsel with his original trial attorneys, Mike Small and Danalynn Recer.
In the ruling issued by Judge Koch, she finds that trial counsel "properly secured evidence and retained experts," that "counsel was intimately familiar with each aspect of the case and would guide the witnesses to conclusions favorable to the defendant." Later, "Robinson has not shown that trial counsels' performance prejudiced his defense and that there is no reasonable probability the outcome of the trial would have been any different."
A second point that Robinson's post-conviction attorneys argued had to do with allegations of a Brady violation, which is an allegation that the prosecutor at the time, Mike Shannon, withheld evidence during the trial.
In their argument, they cited an alleged undisclosed deal with a jailhouse informant, notes that were allegedly withheld, forensic evidence that was allegedly withheld, an allegation that a life insurance policy was not revealed, eyewitness information inconsistent with trial testimony was allegedly not provided, and mentions of consulting a psychic were not allegedly told to the trial attorneys. Shannon and the Rapides Parish District Attorney's Office strongly denied the claims.
Judge Koch agreed with the DA's Office on all counts, also backing up how "extremely organized" Small is in trial preparation and the significant amount of preparation that went into the case as it pertained to obtaining discovery materials.
The DA's Office was also able to back up in its original notes that "documents were provided," and Judge Koch stated that information about a life insurance policy "was not explored by the State nor defense trial counsel." In summary, she goes on to state that the Court does not view that the argument "would have resulted in a reversal of his (Robinson's) conviction."
Judge Koch wraps by stating that the Court finds "that Robinson has failed to carry his burden of proof to entitle him to post conviction relief," therefore, it's denied.
The DA's Office issued this statement about the ruling: "This is just another step forward in executing a vicious man who murdered four innocent members of our community, including a 10-month-old infant." The DA's Office also said it would be "unusual" for the Louisiana Supreme Court to "second guess Judge Koch."
Defense attorney, Mike Small told News Channel 5, "I am unalterably opposed to the death penalty, so I truly regret that Darrell didn't prevail on some ground. Having said that, I think his post-conviction lawyers made a tactical mistake in alleging his defense teams was ineffective. No competent judge who reviewed the extensive record in this case could possibly reach that conclusion."
We also reached out to former prosecutor, Mike Shannon, about the decision. He gave us this statement, “I am very pleased with the result. Robinson was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and there was overwhelming evidence of his guilt. The allegations raised by Robinson's post-conviction counsel were baseless and many were ridiculous. Robinson received a fair trial and it is time that he pay for his crimes. When the allegations were first raised by post-conviction counsel, I was bitter with the current district attorney in the way he initially handled the case, and that led to my decision to retire early. However, the DA later brought in new counsel to defend the case, and I appreciate the efforts of Hugo Holland in defending the case. I remain proud of the job Rocky Willson and I did to bring justice to the families of the victims.”