Executed February 4, 2004 07:34 p.m. by Lethal Injection in Florida
B / M / 33 - 51 W / F / 31
10th murderer executed in U.S. in 2004
895th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
1st murderer executed in Florida in 2004
58th murderer executed in Florida since 1976
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Johnny Leartice Robinson
Beverly St. George
31 year old Beverly St. George left her Plant City home, bound for Quantico, Virginia, on the morning of August 11, 1985. Her car broke down enroute. Police discovered her partially clothed body the next morning in a cemetery located in St. Johns County, with two gunshot wounds to her head. Robinson and Clinton Bernard Fields, seventeen, were arrested for the murder. Robinson gave a statement to the police explaining that he and Fields came upon St. George's car while traveling to Orlando on I-95 and pulled over to render aid. She accompanied them to the cemetery, where Robinson alleged she engaged in consensual sexual activity on the hood of his car. Robinson claimed that the gun, which he had removed from his belt and placed on the hood, went off accidently, shooting her in the face. Robinson then shot her again, stating: "How do you tell someone I accidently shot a white woman?" Needless to say, the jury did not buy the story. Accomplice Fields testified against Robinson at the guilt phase of the first proceedings and completely contradicted Robinson's version of the crimes, saying that after Robinson expressed concern that she could identify them, he then walked up to her and put the gun to her cheek. Fields heard a shot, saw St. George fall, and watched Robinson stand over her and fire a second shot. Robinson had multiple convictions for Rape and at the time of the murder was on parole from prison after serving time for Rape. Accomplice Fields, 16 at the time of the murder, is serving a life sentence.
B / M / 33 - 51
W / F / 31
Robinson v. State, 520 So.2d 1 (Fla. 1988). (Direct Appeal-Reversed)
Robinson v. State, 574 So.2d 108 (Fla. 1991). (Direct Appeal)
Robinson v. Florida, 112 S.Ct. 131 (1991). (Cert. Denied)
Robinson v. State, 707 So.2d 688 (Fla. 1998). (PCR)
Robinson v. State, 773 So.2d 1 (Fla. 2000). (State Habeas)
Robinson v. State, 2004 WL 170362 (Fla. Jan. 29, 2004). (Successive PCR)
Robinson v. Moore, 300 F.3d 1320 (11th Cir. 2002). (Habeas)
Robinson v. U.S., 118 S.Ct. 1398 (1998). (Cert. Denied)
Robinson v. Crosby, ___ F.3d ___ (11th Cir. February 4, 2004). (Sec. 1983)
Fried chicken gizzards, french fries, smoked sausage and butter pecan ice cream.
Robinson was asked by a prison official if he had any last words."Yep!" he said. Then he said, "Later!" And that was all.
Florida Department of CorrectionsDC Number: 102767
A drifter raped and murdered Beverly St. George in a St. Johns County cemetery in 1985. This week, Gov. Jeb Bush signed the death warrant that could push convicted killer Johnny L. Robinson off death row and into the grave. Robinson, 51, is set for execution Feb. 4, 2004, at 6 p.m. Nearly 20 years of appellate work ended against his favor. No more appeals are pending, according to the governor's office. Court records information from the governor's office, and an interview with a detective are reflected in the following account.
Beverly St. George died brutally among grave sites in Pellicer Creek Cemetery on the night of Aug. 11, 1985. Two bullets from a .22-caliber pistol killed her, one fired point-blank into her cheek. Robinson and a 17-year-old boy from Hastings had abducted her from her disabled car on the side of Interstate 95. They raped and killed her in the dark grounds off County Road 204. She had meant to drive to Quantico, Va., to attend a child custody hearing. Terrifying details emerged during the trial and investigation. Robinson was convicted of 1st-degree murder and received a death sentence. His young codefendant, Clinton Fields, got life after testifying against him.
St. Johns County Sheriff's Capt. Chuck West remembers the Robinson case clearly. It was his first homicide case as a detective. "What he did to her was horrible," West said. At first, the evidence amounted to 1 shell casing, 4 tire tracks, and a nameless body. But the point-blank shot to Beverly's cheek clearly came from a target practice weapon, sometimes called a bull-barrel weapon, West said. Investigators searched through burglary reports and found a report of a recently stolen .22-caliber pistol. The owner of the stolen gun gave investigators a tour of his yard, where they collected shell casings. The casings matched the one from the cemetery. "We were lucky. God, we were lucky on that one," West said.
Witnesses to the burglary had seen a yellow Chevrolet Caprice, West said. So detectives stopped at every restaurant in the county, looking for a Caprice or for anyone who might have seen it. No luck. Beverly's body was still unidentified at this point. But shortly thereafter, a worker at Charlie T's truck stop on U.S. 1 -- now closed -- called the Sheriff's Office. A yellow Caprice was in the parking lot. Deputies arrived, found Robinson and Fields, and took them into custody.
Five days after her murder, Robinson was arrested for robbing four other people in a disabled car and raping one of them. At the Sheriff's Office, West saw that the Caprice tires matched the tracks he had taken from the crime scene. He interviewed Robinson, who admitted to the shooting. "He was just coming up with a story to cover the fact that he'd been caught. He didn't exhibit any remorse about his violence," West said. During the interviews, the suspects explained how and where they encountered the woman they killed: on the side of I-95 in Flagler County. With that information, investigators tracked down a vehicle that had been impounded off I-95 soon after the killing. From there, they identified the victim. "You can see, the case was difficult," West said. And the suspects spun their yarns. Court records show Robinson claiming that sexual activities between him and Beverly were consensual. She was on the hood of his car that night, he claimed. But he insulted her, and she started fighting him, Robinson said. The pistol went off accidentally. Scared that no one would believe it was accidental, he shot her again, he said.
But Fields told investigators a different story. Fields told authorities that Robinson handcuffed the woman and forced her to strip. He raped her on the roof of her car, forced Fields to do the same, then raped her again. Then Robinson told Fields that she could identify their car, so he shot her twice. The hand-cuffs Fields referred to were found in the Caprice, along with Beverly's keys, West said. The two men fled with Beverly's purse and burned her belongings, according to information from the governor's office.
Fields and Robinson were convicted in 1986. It wasn't the 1st for Robinson. He was convicted of rape in Virginia, and had other violent charges pending against him. But his slaying conviction marked the beginning of the legal work, not the end. Between 1986 and 2002, Robinson's case bounced between the Florida Supreme Court, the St. Johns County Courthouse, the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeal for the 11th Circuit. In 1986, Robinson's conviction was affirmed, but his death sentence was remanded to St. Johns County for re-sentencing. In 1989, he was given the death penalty again. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the case in 1991. Petitions to the federal court and federal appellate court in the following decade were unsuccessful. The governor's legal office monitors cases like this, according to Press Secretary Alia Faraj. Once an inmate's appeals have run out and there is an end to the process, the legal office presents the death warrant to Bush, Faraj said. Bush signed it Thursday afternoon. Robinson, one of 365 men and women on Florida's death row, is set to be executed in Florida State Prison in Starke, by an anonymous citizen who will be paid $150 for it.
"Florida Executes Prisoner for 1985 Killing." (Wed February 4, 2004 08:33 PM ET)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) - Florida on Wednesday executed a 51-year-old man who raped and killed a woman who had stopped to rest along a busy highway then dumped her body in a cemetery. Johnny Robinson, 51, was pronounced dead at 7:34 p.m. EST at Florida State Prison near Starke following an injection of lethal chemicals, a spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush said.
Robinson was put to death for the 1985 murder of Beverly St. George, who was abducted at gunpoint after stopping along Interstate 95 south of Jacksonville. St. George, who was traveling from Plant City, Florida to Virginia, was found the next day in a cemetery with two shots to her head. She had been handcuffed and repeatedly raped.
Robinson, an auto mechanic, was on parole after serving a prison sentence for an earlier rape in Maryland in the 1970s. He and a juvenile accomplice, Clinton Bernard Fields, were arrested five days later following another robbery and rape. Fields, 16 at the time of the murder, is serving a life sentence.
Robinson was first sentenced to death in 1986 but his sentence was struck down because of racist comments made by the prosecutor in closing arguments. He was again condemned to death three years later. In 2002, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta rejected his appeal.
Robinson ate a final meal of fried chicken gizzards, french fries, smoked sausage and butter pecan ice cream.
The execution was conducted despite protests from a number of death penalty opponents, including the Catholic Bishops of Florida, who urged Gov. Bush to imprison Robinson for life without the possibility of parole. "We do not lose sight of the fact that the family and friends of Beverly St. George have been terribly wronged by her brutal murder," the bishops wrote. "We do not believe the added violence of this execution will relieve their pain."
Robinson was the 58th prisoner executed since Florida resumed capital punishment in the 1970s.
The Death House
"Man Who Raped, Killed Woman in Cemetery Executed in Florida," by Robert Anthony Phillips. (February 4, 2004)
STARKE, Fla. - A man convicted of kidnapping a woman and then raping and killing her in a cemetery was executed Wednesday night by lethal injection after the nation's highest court delayed his trip to the death house by more than an hour while it considered last-ditch appeals. More than an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court turned thumbs down to his appeal, Johnny Robinson, 51, was taken into the death house at Florida State Prison and given a lethal injection of chemicals. Robinson was pronounced dead at 7:34 p.m. He became the first Florida condemned killer put to death in 2004.
Robinson's lawyer had filed last-ditch appeals with a variety of courts of the last several days alleging racism in the sentencing Robinson; claiming that lethal injection causes the condemned to suffer; and that a key witness against Robinson, who was also involved in the murder, had recanted. Robinson was originally scheduled for death at 6 p.m., but Gov. Jeb Bush's office received a call from the U.S. Supreme Court to delay the execution. Robinson was on parole from a previous rape in 1985 when he murdered Beverly St. George, of Plant City, on Aug. 11, 1985. St. George's car had broken down in Orlando. Her body was later found in a cemetery in St. Johns County. She had been shot twice in the head.
Robinson: Sex Was Consensual
Robinson admitted that he had stopped to help St. George, 31, after he saw that her car was disabled on Interstate 95. With him was another man, Bernard Fields. However, Robinson claimed that he took the woman to the cemetery, where they had consensual sex on the hood of a car. Robinson says he was carrying a gun and placed it on the hood of the car while he had sex with the woman. He claimed the gun "accidentally" fired, with a bullet hitting St. George in the face. Robinson said he shot her again because, "How do you tell someone I accidentally shot a white woman." It was a key admission. Essentially, Robinson, in making the statement, admitted intentionally shooting the victim again to make sure she was dead.
Fields told a different story - initially - and gave key testimony that sent Robinson to death row. Fields said that Robinson took the woman at gunpoint to the cemetery, where he raped and killed her, fearing that she could identify him. He claimed Robinson told him of his plans to kill the victim. Fields later signed an affidavit claiming he lied and that he never heard Robinson say he was going to kill the woman. Fields received a life term in prison in return for his testimony. Defense lawyers countered that Fields is mentally retarded with an IQ of 50.
Sex Attack After Murder
Robinson was dangerous rapist. At trial, prosecutors indicated that Robinson had at least four previous rape convictions. In 1979, one of these convictions resulted in Robinson receiving a 10 year prison sentence in Maryland. Court documents stated that Robinson, who had pleaded guilty to the Maryland rape, was on parole from prison in that state at the time of the St. George murder. In addition, five days after the murder of St. George, Robinson was arrested for a robbery of four in another disabled car. One of the victim's was raped. Robinson was described in court documents as a sixth grade dropout who was physically and sexually abused as a child by a family member. He had been forced to work in migrant labor camps as a child. Robinson had also been drinking at the time of the murder of St. George, his lawyers stated.
The Florida Supreme Court vacated Robinson's first death sentence, concluding that the prosecutor's questioning of a medical expert put on the witness stand by defense lawyers "was a deliberate attempt to insinuate that appellant had a habit of preying on white women and thus constituted an impermissible appeal to bias and prejudice." The prosecutor had asked if Robinson prefers to rape white women. However, at a new sentencing hearing, a jury once again sentenced Robinson to death. On appeal in recent years, Robinson's lawyers had claimed that the condemned rapist and murderer was the victim of racism and had ineffective counsel at trial. Those claims have been rejected by the federal courts.
"After brief delay, Florida inmate executed in 1985 murder," by Ron Word. (AP February 4, 2004)
STARKE, Fla. (AP) -- After a 90-minute delay asked by the U.S. Supreme Court, Johnny L. Robinson was executed Wednesday for the 1985 murder of a Plant City woman in a northeast Florida cemetery. Robinson, 51, was condemned for the fatal shooting of Beverly St. George, whose car had broken down in St. Johns County. He was pronounced dead at 7:34 p.m., said Jacob DiPietre, a spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush.
He had been scheduled to die by injection at 6 p.m. at Florida State Prison, but just 15 minutes before the process was to begin, the Supreme Court asked the state "to wait for further word" without saying how long that wait might be. Shortly after 7 p.m. the court refused on a 5-4 vote to stop the execution, said JoAnn Carrin, a spokeswoman for state Attorney General Charlie Crist.
Reporters, official witnesses and family members of the victim sat waiting in a room outside the death chamber for 1 1/2 hours before curtains opened at 7:23 p.m. to reveal Robinson, strapped to a gurney with intravenous tubes running to his arms. At one point during the wait, Robinson's appeal attorney, Peter Cannon, got up and went over to a prison guard and asked, "What is going on with my client?" Cannon said later that he also asked, "Are you torturing my client?" The guard quietly told him to sit back down, which he did.
After the curtain was opened, Robinson was asked by a prison official if he had any last words."Yep!" he said. Then he said, "Later!" And that was all. As the lethal cocktail flowed into his body, he blinked a few times and his chest heaved several times, as if he were trying to catch his breath. He then became still. Prisons spokesman Sterling Ivey later said Robinson had been kept in his cell from the time of the requested delay until time for the execution sequence to begin. For his final meal, Robinson ordered fried chicken gizzards and hearts, smoked sausage, french fries, butter pecan ice cream and Dr. Pepper. He ate it all .
St. George, 31, was driving to Quantico, Va., to attend a child custody hearing when her car broke done on I-95. She was abducted at gunpoint by Robinson and a co-defendant. She was handcuffed and taken to Pellicer Cemetery, where she was raped, then shot twice in the head. Her husband, Harland St. George Jr., witnessed the execution and told reporters later that he would spend the night "remembering a woman that I shared over 10 years of my life with. "I will drink a toast to her honor, shed a few tears, pray. and, in my own quiet way, say goodbye to her for the last time."
Cannon had launched a multifaceted attack to try to save his client, but was turned down in court after court, from district court in Jacksonville to an appeals court in Atlanta to the high court. The appeals included arguments that Robinson's death sentence was the result of racism in St. Johns County and his being black, and that co-defendant Clinton Fields, serving a life sentence in the slaying, recanted his testimony in Robinson's trial. They also challenged Florida's method of execution as being cruel and unusual because one of the chemicals used is banned by some states in the euthanizing of animals.
Robinson denied intentionally killing St. George. He said she agreed to go to the cemetery and that during consensual sex, a struggle occurred and his .22-caliber pistol went off, hitting her in the face. He said he shot her again because he did not think people would believe that the first shooting was an accident.
Five days after St. George's murder, Robinson was arrested for robbing four other people in a disabled car and raping one of them. He was on parole for a Maryland rape at the time.
The handgun used to kill St. George was stolen in a burglary the week before. Robinson was sexually, physically and emotionally abused as a child. He was forced by his grandfather to work in farm fields from the ages of 5 or 6, according to court records.
He was the first person executed this year in Florida, which has executed 55 men and two women since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Paul Hill, 49, who died from lethal injection on Sept. 3, for the shooting deaths of an abortion doctor and his body guard, was the last person executed in Florida. Since 1924, Florida has executed more than 250 state prison inmates and one federal prisoner.
First Coast News
"Robinson Executed After 90 Minute Delay." (February 4, 2004)
PENSACOLA, FLA. -- Florida inmate Johnny L. Robinson was executed 7:34 Wednesday evening for his role in the death of Beverly St. George. Johnny L. Robinson, 51, was condemned for the Aug. 12, 1985, slaying of Beverly St. George, whose car had broken down in St. Johns County.
He was scheduled to die by injection at 6 p.m. EST at Florida State Prison near Starke in northeastern Florida. Just 15 minutes before the execution process was to begin, Gov. Jeb Bush's office got a call from the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it "to wait for further word," said Anne Conley, an assistant attorney general. Robinson had eaten a final meal of fried chicken gizzards and hearts, smoked sausage, french fries, butter pecan ice cream and Dr. Pepper.
Robinson was convicted of slaying Beverly St. George, whose car had broken down in St. Johns County. His attorney, Peter Cannon, had launched a multifaceted attack to try to save his client, but had been turned down by court after court. On Wednesday, he sent a second appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after being rejected by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta late Tuesday and again on Wednesday. The request for the delay came several hours later.
Robinson has earlier lost appeals in the Circuit Court in St. Johns County, the Florida Supreme Court and federal court in Jacksonville. His attorneys had argued that his death sentence was the result of racism in St. Johns County and that a co-defendant Clinton Fields recanted testimony about the shooting of St. George.
Fields, who has an IQ of 50 and is serving a life sentence for St. George's murder, now says he never saw Robinson fire the fatal shots, the attorneys say. Robinson also challenged Florida's method of execution as cruel and unusual punishment. The appeal challenged the use of the chemical, pancuronium bromide, the second of three chemicals used in the execution process. Opponents of the drug's usage say it can cause prisoners to suffocate before they lose consciousness and is so cruel that some states have banned its use by veterinarians to euthanize animals. A federal judge in Jacksonville turned down the drug appeal Tuesday afternoon, as did the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.
In Washington, Robinson also had an appeal pending with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to stop his execution based on an Arizona case, known as the Ring decision. In the Ring case, the high court ruled that the ultimate decision on the death penalty should rest with juries and not judges.
In Florida, juries make a sentencing recommendation to the judge, who can either follow or reject their recommendation. Several Florida inmates have been unsuccessful when attempting to use the Ring decision to spare their lives.
St. George, 31, was driving to Quantico, Va., to attend a child custody hearing, when her car broke done on I-95. She was abducted at gunpoint by Robinson and Fields. She was handcuffed and taken to Pellicer Cemetery, where she was raped by both men, and shot twice in the head. Robinson, however, who is black, said the woman agreed to go with them to the cemetery and he and St. George had consensual sex on the hood of his car. He claimed that during the sexual activity, a struggle occurred and his .22-caliber pistol went off hitting her in the face. Robinson said he shot her again because he did not think people would believe that the fatal shooting of a white woman was an accident.
Five days after St. George's murder, Robinson was arrested for robbing four other people in a disabled car and raping one of them. Robinson was still on parole for a Maryland rape at the time. The handgun used to kill St. George was stolen in a burglary the week before.
Robinson was sexually, physically and emotionally abused as a child. He was forced by his grandfather to work in farm fields from the ages of 5 or 6, according to court records.
Unless he receives a last-minute stay, Robinson will be the first person executed this year in Florida, which has executed 55 men and two women since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Paul Hill, 49, who died from lethal injection on Sept. 3, for the shooting deaths of an abortion doctor and his body guard, was the last person executed in Florida. Since 1924, Florida has executed 253 state prison inmates and one federal prisoner.
Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
Johnny Robinson: 6 p.m. on Feb. 4, 2004
Johnny Robinson, 51, is scheduled to be exterminated by the people of Florida at 6 p.m. on Feb. 4 in revenge for his murder of Beverly St. George in August 1985. Click here to read an unbalanced news report from the St. Augustine Record. FADP is awaiting further details in this case, including if there are any possible legal actions yet to be taken. Please check this site frequently. Click Here to read the Execution Order. Detailed and regularly updated information is also available at
Governor Jeb Bush signed the execution order for Johnny Robinson on December 18, 2003, thus ensuring him and his family a very merry Christmas and dragging the family of the victim into yet another round of painful memories and the false promise that they will feel better after Robinson is killed. Yeah, right. No amount of killing will bring back Beverly St. George, the victim in this case, nor could any killing equal her value. Johnny Robinson and his co-defendant (who received a life sentence in exchange for his testimony against Robinson) were both involved in a horrible crime. According to legal records, the two men tell conflicting stories. One received a lesser sentence in exchange for his testimony against the other.
Which one is telling the truth? The one who was the first to agree to testify against the other? Is RACE a factor? Johnny Robinson is an African American man on death row in Florida for the murder of a white woman. He was tried by an all-white jury in 1986. That conviction stood, but he was granted a re-sentencing because the prosecutor had injected comments into his arguments that could have inflamed racial prejudice among the jurors. He was re-sentenced to death in 1989 by a jury of 11 whites and one black. Johnny Robinson was tried in St Johns County. Between 1976 and 1987, 33 white people and 25 black people were murdered in the county. Three people, including Johnny Robinson, received death sentences. All had been convicted of crimes against whites. Robinson's appeal lawyers also raised evidence that in the wider Seventh Judicial Circuit, within which St Johns is one of four counties, murders with white victims were about 13 times more likely to result in a death sentence than in cases where the victim was black, and a black who kills a white is over 35 times more likely to receive a death sentence than a black who kills a black.
It is clear that both defendants were present at the time Beverly St. George was killed, and it is proper that both defendants be punished and that society be protected from them. Imprisonment is severe punishment, and society has been safe from these killers ever since they were apprehended. Killing one of them almost twenty years later is both unnecessary and a waste of tax payer dollars. Please write a polite (hand written, if possible) note to Governor Jeb Bush, asking that he adopt a consistent attitude with regard to the sanctity of life. Ask Bush to commute Robinson's death sentence to Life Without the Possibility of Parole, and that he do similarly for all prisoners under sentence of death in Florida. In a recent meeting with Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Governor Bush admitted that "You cannot have complete equality of sentencing for every circumstance - this is not possible..." Remind the Governor that Floridians want a legal system that treats people fairly and equally, without regard to race, politics, money or geography. If fewer than 1% of death-eligible murderers actually get the death penalty, then Florida should resort to the alternative, Life Without Parole, in ALL cases. And remember: We remember the victims, but NOT with more killing!
WRITE TO: Governor Jeb Bush The Capitol Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001 phone: (850) 488-4441 fax: (850) 487-0801.
PLEASE SEND COPIES (OR A LETTER TO THE EDITOR) TO YOUR LOCAL NEWSPAPER.
Sarasota Herald Tribune
"Key dates in case of Johnny Robinson." (The Associated Press February 4, 2004)
Following are some of the key dates in the murder case of Johnny Robinson:
- Aug. 12, 1985, Beverly St. George. 31, abducted, raped and killed after her car breaks down on I-95 in St. Johns County.
- Aug. 18, 1985, Robinson arrested.
- Nov. 6, 1985, Robinson indicted on charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and sexual battery.
- May 29, 1986, Robinson convicted of all counts by a jury.
- May 30, 1986, Jury recommended death penalty in a 9-3 vote.
- June 6, 1986, Robinson sentenced to life terms for kidnapping, armed robbery and sexual battery.
- June 19, 1986, Robinson sentenced to death.
- Jan. 28, 1988, Florida Supreme Court upheld conviction, but reversed the death sentence and remanded it to trial court for a new sentencing hearing because of prosecution statements in original trial.
- Feb. 15, 1989, At a new sentencing hearing, jury voted 8-4 for the death penalty.
- April 4, 1989, Robinson again sentenced to death for murder and life terms on other charges.
- Feb. 27, 1991, Florida Supreme Court affirmed conviction and sentence.
- June 8, 1995, Circuit Court denied appeal.
- Feb. 12, 1998, Florida Supreme Court denied appeal.
- Aug. 31, 2000, Florida Supreme Court denied petition for writ of habeus corpus.
- June 27, 2001, U.S. District Court in Jacksonville denied petition for writ of habeus corpus.
- Aug. 8, 2002, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied habeus appeal.
- Dec. 18, 2003, Gov. Jeb Bush signed death warrant, scheduling execution for Feb. 4.
- Jan. 2004-Feb. 2, 2004, Appeals filed in state and federal courts seeking stay of execution.
- Feb. 4, 2004, Florida Supreme Court denied final appeal.
- Feb. 4, 2004, Robinson executed by lethal injection.
Socialist Worker Online
"Florida's plan to execute Johnny Robinson; This is murder, not justice." (February 6, 2004)
Dear Socialist Worker,
A major miscarriage of justice is about to be carried out in Florida on February 4, if Johnny L. Robinson is executed. In the words of sociologist Michael Radelet, an expert on capital punishment, if the planned execution takes place, it will be "one of the very most horrendous miscarriages of justice that I have seen anywhere in my 25 years in the business."
In 1986, Robinson was tried and convicted by an all-white jury for the murder of a white woman, Beverly St. George. The prosecutor, Steve Alexander, a racist by reputation, spoon-fed his desired version of the murder to a then-16-year-old mentally retarded child named Clinton Fields, who was with Robinson at the time of the killing.
Despite being told by Fields that the death was an accident, Alexander refused to listen. He allowed his officers to coerce Fields--with an IQ of 50--into changing his story and signing Alexander’s version of the killing.
In return for his signature on the prepared statement came the promise that once the state’s version of the "facts" was signed, Fields would be allowed to go home to his mother. On January 19 of this year, Clinton Fields took the stand and recanted the testimony that he was forced into in 1985, describing how he was pressured and bullied into signing what he knew was not the truth.
In 1985, as a 16-year-old mentally retarded boy, Clinton Fields was believable. As a man in 2004, his recantation was dismissed by prosecutors. The sad reality is that Beverly St. George is dead at the hands of Johnny Robinson. Sadder yet is the fact that in 1985, Florida was a racist environment where fear of repercussion drove Johnny Robinson to panic at the accidental shooting of a woman not of his race. The tragic reality is that discrimination is still alive and well in our country.
To base a death penalty conviction solely on the words of a retarded witness who is under pressure should not be tolerated. It is time for Florida to rethink.
"Governor signs death warrant for St. Johns County man," by Ken Lewis. (December 20, 1993)
A drifter raped and murdered Beverly St. George in a St. Johns County cemetery in 1985. This week, Gov. Jeb Bush signed the death warrant that could push convicted killer Johnny L. Robinson off Death Row and into the grave. Robinson, 51, is set for execution Feb. 4, 2004, at 6 p.m. Nearly 20 years of appellate work ended against his favor. No more appeals are pending, according to the governor's office.
Court records, information from the governor's office, and an interview with a detective are reflected in the following account. St. George died brutally among grave sites in Pellicer Creek Cemetery on the night of Aug. 11, 1985. Two bullets from a .22-caliber pistol killed her, one fired point-blank into her cheek. Robinson and a 16-year-old boy from Hastings had abducted her from her disabled car on the side of Interstate 95. They raped and killed her in the dark grounds off County Road 204. She had meant to drive to Quantico, Va., to attend a child custody hearing. Terrifying details emerged during the trial and investigation. Robinson was convicted of first-degree murder and received a death sentence. His young codefendant, Clinton Fields, got life after testifying against him.
St. Johns County Sheriff's Capt. Chuck West remembers the Robinson case clearly. It was his first homicide case as a detective. "What he did to her was horrible," West said. At first, the evidence amounted to one shell casing, four tire tracks, and a nameless body. But the point-blank shot to St. George's cheek clearly came from a target practice weapon, sometimes called a bull-barrel weapon, West said.
Investigators searched through burglary reports and found a report of a recently stolen .22-caliber pistol. The owner of the stolen gun gave investigators a tour of his yard, where they collected shell casings. The casings matched the one from the cemetery. "We were lucky. God, we were lucky on that one," West said. Witnesses to the burglary had seen a yellow Chevrolet Caprice, West said. So detectives stopped at every restaurant in the county, looking for a Caprice or for anyone who might have seen it. No luck. St. George's body was still unidentified at this point. But shortly thereafter, a worker at Charlie T's truck stop on U.S. 1 -- now closed -- called the Sheriff's Office. A yellow Caprice was in the parking lot. Deputies arrived, found Robinson and Fields, and took them into custody.
At the Sheriff's Office, West saw that the Caprice tires matched the tracks he had taken from the crime scene. He interviewed Robinson, who admitted to the shooting. "He was just coming up with a story to cover the fact that he'd been caught. He didn't exhibit any remorse about his violence," West said. During the interviews, the suspects explained how and where they encountered the woman they killed: on the side of I-95 in Flagler County. With that information, investigators tracked down a vehicle that had been impounded off I-95 soon after the killing. From there, they identified the victim. "You can see, the case was difficult," West said. And the suspects spun their yarns.
Court records show Robinson claiming that sexual activities between him and St. George were consensual. She was on the hood of his car that night, he claimed. But he insulted her, and she started fighting him, Robinson said. The pistol went off accidentally. Scared that no one would believe it was accidental, he shot her again, he said. But Fields told investigators a different story. He said Robinson hand-cuffed her on the highway, West said. They both assaulted her, and Robinson shot her. The hand-cuffs Fields referred to were found in the Caprice, along with St. George's keys, West said. The two men fled with St. George's purse and burned her belongings, according to information from the governor's office.
Fields and Robinson were convicted in 1986. It wasn't the first for Robinson. He was convicted of rape in Virginia, and had other violent charges pending against him. But his slaying conviction marked the beginning of the legal work, not the end. Between 1986 and 2002, Robinson's case bounced between the Florida Supreme Court, the St. Johns County Courthouse, the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeal for the 11th Circuit.
In 1986, Robinson's conviction was affirmed, but his death sentence was remanded to St. Johns County for re-sentencing. In 1989, he was given the death penalty again. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the case in 1991. Petitions to the federal court and federal appellate court in the following decade were unsuccessful. The governor's legal office monitors cases like this, according to Press Secretary Alia Faraj. Once an inmate's appeals have run out and there is an end to the process, the legal office presents the death warrant to Bush, Faraj said. Bush signed it Thursday afternoon.
Robinson, one of 365 men and women on Florida's Death Row, is set to be executed in Florida State Prison in Starke, by an anonymous citizen who will be paid $150 for it.
Johnny Robinson Homepage
Governor Jeb Bush signed Mr. Johnny L. Robinson's death warrant on December 18. 2003. Mr. Robinson is scheduled to be executed on February 4. 2004 at 6. p.m. We ask you to please read the material provided. New evidence shows Mr. Robinson is not guilty of Capital Murder. False evidence was presented against him. Relevant information that should have been disclosed was withheld from him. His counsel failed to conduct the trial effectively. His public records claim have not been properly acted upon and most importantly: Mr. Robinson is a victim of racism and prejudice, which this web page will show.
Thank You for your interest!
The Case in a nutshell:
Johnny Robinson is an African American man on death row in Florida for the murder of a white woman. He was tried by an all-white jury in 1986. That conviction stood, but he was granted a re-sentencing because the prosecutor had injected comments into his arguments that could have inflamed racial prejudice among the jurors. He was re-sentenced to death in 1989 by a jury of 11 whites and one black. Johnny Robinson was tried in St Johns County. Between 1976 and 1987, 33 white people and 25 black people were murdered in the county. Three people, including Johnny Robinson, received death sentences. All had been convicted of crimes against whites. Robinson's appeal lawyers also raised evidence that in the wider Seventh Judicial Circuit, within which St Johns is one of four counties, murders with white victims were about 13 times more likely to result in a death sentence than in cases where the victim was black, and a black who kills a white is over 35 times more likely to receive a death sentence than a black who kills a black.(78) Another prisoner on death row from this Circuit is Louis Gaskin, black, tried in front of an all-white jury in 1990 for the murder of a white man.
On August 12, 1985, the body of Beverly St. George was found in Pellicer Creek Cemetery in St. Johns County, Florida. An autopsy revealed that she had died early that morning as a result of two gunshot wounds, one to the forehead and one to the left cheek. The medical examiner testified that the wound to the forehead was caused by discharge of a gun that was six inches to two feet away from the skin; the other wound was caused by a gun in contact with the cheek when fired. The sequence of the wounds could not be determined. The medical examiner testified, however, that either shot would have killed her virtually instantly.
Johnny Robinson and Clinton Bernard Fields, a juvenile, were arrested for the murder on August 17. Upon arrest, Robinson waived his rights and gave a sworn statement to the police. According to his statement, Robinson and Fields left a party around 11:30 p.m. on the evening of August 11, 1985, and headed towards Orlando to visit Robinson's girl friend. On the way, they saw a car pulled off on the side of the road and stopped to help. The woman told them that she was tired and had stopped to rest. Robinson claimed that when the woman noticed that Robinson had a gun, she wished aloud that she had something similar so she could kill her ex-husband. She agreed to go with the two men in their car to Pellicer Cemetery. Once there, Robinson and Ms. St. George engaged in consensual sex on the hood of his car. During this activity, Robinson took the gun out of his pants and placed it on the hood. Afterwards, according to Robinson's statement, a scuffle ensued during which the gun went off accidentally, hitting Ms. St. George in the face. He said when he realized what had happened, he shot her again out of fear that no one would believe a black man had accidentally shot a white woman.
Not surprisingly, Fields testified against Robinson at trial and told a different story. According to Fields' testimony, when they stopped at the car on the side of the road, Robinson ordered Ms. St. George at gunpoint into the backseat of Robinson's car where he handcuffed her. Robinson ordered Fields to go through her purse but he refused. At Pellicer Creek Cemetery, Robinson raped Ms. St. George and then ordered Fields to do likewise. Fields further testified that after the sexual activity, Robinson expressed fear that the woman could identify him and his car and said that the only way she could not make an identification was if she were dead. Robinson then walked up to the victim and put the gun to her cheek. Fields turned his head, heard a shot, and later saw the woman on the ground. Robinson then shot her a second time. They drove to a desolate area where Robinson took the money from the woman's purse and then burned the rest of her property.
At the penalty phase, the state introduced evidence that Robinson was convicted of rape in Maryland in 1979, sentenced to ten years in prison, and was out on parole at the time of this incident. The defense presented Dr. Harry Krop, a clinical psychologist, who testified to six non-statutory mitigating circumstances: that Robinson was severely intoxicated, resulting in impaired judgment; that Robinson was severely emotionally deprived because he had never known his mother; that he had been physically abused by the man (not his biological father) who had raised him; that he had been sexually abused by an uncle, resulting in a psychosexual disorder; and that he had suffered emotional trauma as a result of being incarcerated in an adult prison at the age of 13. Krop was of the opinion that Robinson, who frequently made extra money as a mechanic, originally stopped his car to help Ms. St. George. He was convinced that the subsequent sexual involvement and violence occurred as a result of poor judgment. At sentencing, additional testimony was presented from a guard at the St. Johns County Jail that Robinson was an outstanding inmate and was responsible on four occasions for quelling possible disturbances at the jail.
Mr. Johnny L. Robinson was found guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, and sexual battery. The jury, by a vote of 9 to 3, recommended death for the murder and the trial court, finding seven aggravating circumstances and one mitigating circumstance, sentenced Robinson to death.
Robinson v. Moore, 300 F.3d 1320 (11th Cir. 2002). (Habeas)
Defendant was convicted in the Florida Circuit Court, St. Johns County, Richard Watson, J., of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death. He appealed. The Florida Supreme Court, 520 So.2d 1, remanded for resentencing. On remand, the circuit court reimposed death sentence, and defendant again appealed. The Supreme Court, Barkett, J., 574 So.2d 108, affirmed, and defendant petitioned for federal habeas relief. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, No. 99-00415-CV-J-10, William Terrell Hodges, J., denied petition, and defendant appealed. The Court of Appeals, Hull, Circuit Judge, held that state appellate court's determination, in rejecting ineffective assistance claims which state prisoner was again asserting as basis for federal habeas relief, that any deficiency in his trial counsel's performance in failing to more fully investigate mitigation evidence had not prejudiced prisoner at sentencing phase of his capital case, since there was no reasonable probability that prisoner would not have received sentence of death, was not contrary to Supreme Court precedent, and did not involve unreasonable application thereof. Affirmed. Edmondson, Chief Judge, concurred in judgment and filed opinion.
Johnny L. Robinson appeals the denial of his § 2254 petition challenging his death sentence. After review and oral argument, we affirm.
During 1986, Robinson was convicted in the Circuit Court of St. Johns County, Florida of first-degree murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and sexual battery of Beverly St. George, and was sentenced to death on the murder conviction. On direct review, the Florida Supreme Court reversed his death sentence. Robinson v. State, 520 So.2d 1 (Fla.1988).
During the resentencing on remand, the State argued that several statutory aggravating circumstances warranted the death penalty in Robinson's case. See Fla. Stat. Ann. § 921.141(5) A jury again recommended death, by a vote of eight to four. The initial jury recommended death by a vote of nine to three. Under Florida's capital sentencing scheme, "the jury makes a recommendation on whether life imprisonment or execution is the proper punishment." While that recommendation is entitled to "great weight," the trial court "ultimately decides for itself whether the imposition of the death penalty is appropriate." The state trial court accepted that recommendation and imposed the death penalty. The Florida Supreme Court affirmed Robinson's death sentence. Robinson v. State, 574 So.2d 108 (Fla.1991)
A. Aggravating Circumstances
1. Testimony of Accomplice Fields
During resentencing, the State read to the jury portions of Clinton Bernard Fields's testimony from the guilt phase, which detailed how Robinson murdered Beverly St. George. Fields testified during the guilt phase, but invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify during Robinson's resentencing.According to Fields, he and Robinson were at a party on the night of August 11, 1985. After leaving that party together, Robinson and Fields were driving on Interstate 95. While driving, Robinson and Fields saw a green car parked in the emergency lane. Robinson, who was driving, pulled over, "walked up to the green car ... [and] opened the door and put a handgun out his pants." Robinson came back with "this girl in his hand," and "[h]e had the gun on her ... you know, pointing at her, aimed at her." Robinson got into the back seat of his car with the woman, put handcuffs on her, and told Fields to drive away. The woman was later identified as Beverly St. George.
Subsequently, Robinson again took over the driving and drove to the Pellicer Creek Cemetery where he took the handcuffs off of St. George and told her to take off all her clothes. St. George then "got on the hood of the car," and Robinson "put his penis inside her." After Robinson "got off her," he told Fields "to go ahead and get it, get on her." Fields told Robinson that he "don't really need it, because I got a girlfriend." Robinson then "raised his voice," and told Fields to "just go ahead on." Scared by Robinson, Fields "went ahead and put it in her and pulled it back out." When Fields finished, Robinson "got back on her" and had sex with St. George a second time. While having sex, Robinson "had the gun in his hand lying on the hood of the car, [and] had his hand over the gun."
Fields explained that during the sex with Robinson, St. George could see the gun that Robinson had in his hand. Fields described how St. George appeared scared, and that, on the way to the cemetery, St. George asked repeatedly whether they were going to kill her. According to Fields, "she was begging, you know, 'Is you-all going to take me back to my car? Is you-all going to kill me or what?' " Fields assured her they would not kill her.
After raping St. George a second time, Robinson expressed concern that St. George could later identify them. Fields responded, "Well, it's dark. You know, ain't no way she could do that there, you know." Robinson disagreed, stating, "Well, only way she can't do that there, I just go ahead and kill the bitch." Robinson then "walked up to her and put the gun to her cheek." At that point, Fields turned his head. Fields "heard the shot went off, and then ... seen her laying on the ground there. And then he [Robinson] standing over her and gave her another shot." As to the first gunshot, Fields clarified that Robinson "put it to her head right there, to her cheek, and he pulled the trigger." As to the second gunshot, Fields explained that "she fell on the ground" and Robinson "just stand over her and, pow, shot her again."
After shooting St. George twice, Robinson told Fields, "That's what I had to do. You know, if I didn't, you know, she know how I look, you know, and could identify my car, you know." Robinson then told Fields, "Now, she can't do none of that." Thereafter, Robinson and Fields drove to a dark road, where Robinson took money out of St. George's purse and burned her "purse, ... underwears and some papers, some other stuff." Robinson then took Fields back to Fields's mother's house. At some point along I-95, Robinson threw the murder weapon into a wooded area.
Robinson stipulated that he fired the fatal shots with a .22 caliber Ruger pistol. His stipulations were read to the resentencing jury, as follows: Stipulation of facts. That Johnny Leartrice Robinson did on or between August 11 and 12, 1985, at Pellicer Creek Cemetery within St. Johns County, Florida, have in his possession the .22 caliber Ruger pistol with which Beverly St. George, a human being, was fatally shot. The .22 long rifle Remington shell casing found at the cemetery was fired in and ejected by said firearm. That Johnny Leartrice Robinson did fire the said firearm twice and that both shots struck the said Beverly St. George in the head, fatally wounding her. The State of Florida has never found and recovered the said firearm used by Johnny Leartrice Robinson.
The Florida Supreme Court noted that "[o]ne week before Beverly St. George's murder, the weapon used to kill her was stolen in a burglary," and "[t]he state had substantial evidence indicating that Robinson was the burglar, and thus had the murder weapon." Robinson I, 520 So.2d at 4. Thus, "[t]o avoid the introduction of evidence of the prior burglary, the defense stipulated with the state that Robinson had fired the fatal shots." Id.
Portions of Fields's testimony on cross-examination during the guilt phase were also read to the resentencing jury. According to that testimony, (1) Fields was also convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping, rape, and armed robbery, (2) Fields "got life, not death," and the State had promised Fields "some slack" with regard to sentencing for his rape, robbery, and kidnapping convictions, and (3) Fields was granted use immunity for his testimony against Robinson.
2. Testimony of Investigator West
Charles West, the lead investigator, testified during the resentencing. West found St. George "lying kind of on her back, on her side ... [s]he was wearing blue jeans, no shirt, and had two wounds to her head." West secured and videotaped the crime scene. Over Robinson's counsel's objection, that videotape was shown to the jury. West pointed out the blood around St. George's head area and the bullet wound over her left eye.
West further testified about Robinson's sworn, post-arrest statement, in which Robinson admitted shooting St. George twice, but claimed his first shot was an accident. Robinson's post-arrest statement, published to the jury, provided as follows: On Sunday night, between 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., I was at a party drinking Henessey Cognac, some gin or vodka and beer. I left at about 11:30 with Bernard [Fields]. We started to head for Orlando on 95 to see a girl I know there. I saw a little green Plymouth with someone in it. I turned around and went back and stopped. I said, "What's the problem?" She said, "No real problem" and that she was tired and stopped. We talked and joked. I had a gun stuck in my pants. She said she needed something like that to kill this son of a bitch. Later she explained it was her ex-husband.
I grabbed her by her arm and said, "Come on" and she came. And I went past Charlie T's [restaurant] and turned down a road. There was a gate that was open. And when I got in, I saw it was a cemetery. We played around a little, and I got her out of her pants. We got out of the car, and I took the gun out of my pants and laid it on the hood. Me and the chick were on the front of the car. And the kid said, "Man, let's get out of here and take her back to the car." I said, "No, I'm going to take the bitch back to the party." And she said, "Who the fuck are you calling a bitch?" I said, "Shut up, whore." The kid started to laugh, and she went to pawing at me.
I picked up my gun. She was right against me, and I was trying to push her back. The gun went off and hit her in the face. She fell, and I called her and said, "Hey, bitch, get up." She didn't say anything. I got a flashlight. She was lying on her side, and there was blood coming from her face.
I got scared. Then I shot her again. I had to. How do you tell someone I accidently shot a white woman? I hauled ass, started driving. I drove and drove for maybe an hour, two hours. Then I got my head straight and decided to rid of her stuff. I don't remember where I was, but I threw her pocketbook, blouse and I don't recall anything else.
The next thing I knew, it was breaking day. And I took Bernard [Fields] home. Then I went home. Monday afternoon when I woke up, I took a screwdriver and tore into the gun where you pull it back. When I finished with it, it wouldn't cock or pull a bullet into it. The gun stayed under the seat of my car. I couldn't figure out what to do with it. The screwdriver's in my trunk.
I was coming back from Orlando this morning on 8/17/85 around 1:00 and 2:00 o'clock this morning. And somewhere between Daytona and Ormond Beach, I stopped the car on I-95 and flung the gun into the bushes. West also testified about his post-arrest conversation with Robinson. West asked Robinson why he had placed his firearm into his waistband before approaching St. George in her car. Robinson replied, "Well, you know, a gun is a sign of power and authority." While West generally agreed that Robinson was cooperative, West also indicated that Robinson already knew Fields was cooperating with the State.
3. Testimony of Medical Examiner
The State also called Dr. Robert McConaghie, the medical examiner for St. Johns County, Florida. McConaghie described the results of his autopsy of St. George, as follows: She was 5 and a-half feet tall, weighed approximately 125 pounds, was a young adult, white woman, about 30, 31 years of age.... She received two gunshot wounds to her face, one of which was in the--entered in the left cheek, traveled into the bottom of the skull through the mid-brain and ended up on the right side of the back of her head. The second bullet entered the left side of her forehead, went backwards into the right and also ended up in the back of the right side of the head. There was extensive hemorrhage inside the skull. There was a bullet track going through both sides of the main lobes of the brain, the cerebral hemispheres and the middle portion of the brain, the medulla, had been penetrated twice, once by each bullet.
McConaghie further testified that St. George "died as a result of severe brain injuries inflicted by the gunshot wounds." Other than a scratch over her thumb and the two gunshot wounds, "there was no other significant injury" to her body. McConaghie also "saw no markings of any kind or indentations or injuries to her wrists, her hands, or her arms." While McConaghie did not notice any bruising around St. George's vaginal area, his examination did reveal that "spermatozoa were present," and that "[r]ecent sexual intercourse had taken place."
As to which bullet wound Robinson inflicted first, McConaghie had "the impression ... that the bullet in the left cheek was the initial shot and the one in the forehead was the second shot." Although St. George would have been rendered "immediately unconscious" after either bullet went into her head, McConaghie believed that "[d]eath from either of the shots would not have been instantaneous. It would have taken at least several seconds, perhaps up to a minute before death to occur." St. George was probably still breathing after the first shot because "[t]here was blood found in her lungs that had to come from the back of the mouth, from the blood--from inside of the head. So she had to have breathed in that blood at least one breath and possibly more."
This resentencing testimony comports with Fields's testimony. However, during the guilt phase, McConaghie was asked, "Can you tell by examining a person which gunshot was first or which gunshot was second?" He answered, "No." Robinson's counsel highlighted this apparent inconsistency while cross-examining McConaghie before the resentencing jury, and McConaghie admitted that "[t]here's no anatomic physical evidence to indicate which shot was fired first."
McConaghie also testified about the distance at which the gun was held each time St. George was shot. With regard to her left cheek, McConaghie testified that it was a "tight contact wound," explaining that the gun was "pressed to the cheek and pressed into the cheek." That testimony was consistent with Fields's testimony that Robinson put the gun up against St. George's cheek. Robinson's counsel, however, posited another cause for the contact wound, which McConaghie could not rule out, as follows:
McConaghie described his conclusion, as follows: There's small abrasions up here which is consistent with the muzzle of a weapon, a laceration, small tear in the skin which is above that, which is consistent with the gas that escapes from a tight contact wound of the skin, the gas that's underneath the skin that swells up and you can see it tears. There is no powder around the wound there's no small particles or other things that come from a weapon that's fired. And this photograph [of the wound] is consistent with a tight gunshot wound.
DEFENSE: [W]e see a contact wound there and I think that is beyond question. However, what was moving to cause the pressure; that is to say, was the gun muzzle pushed forcefully toward her or was she moving toward the muzzle ... Could she have been moving toward the gun ..., rather than the person holding the gun pushing it against her face? McCONAGHIE: I have no way of knowing whether the gun was being pushed in or she was pushing toward the gun. With regard to the bullet wound in St. George's forehead, McConaghie believed that the gun was held "one to two feet away."
4. Testimony of Annette Eversole
Annette Eversole lived with St. George, and is married to St. George's brother. By stipulation, a portion of her testimony from the guilt phase was read to the resentencing jury. According to Eversole, before St. George left home on August 11, Eversole saw St. George count out $197 in bills. St. George placed those bills in her billfold and placed that billfold in her black purse. Eversole had discussed money with St. George because she wanted "to be sure that [St. George] had enough to make the trip" to Quantico, Virginia. St. George was headed to Virginia for a hearing concerning the custody of her children. St. George left in a 1968 green Plymouth, a car with which she had previously experienced mechanical difficulties. Eversole later identified St. George's body at the medical examiner's office.
5. Testimony of State Attorney for Maryland
Also by stipulation, the State presented a portion of the guilt phase testimony of Edmund L. Widdowson, Jr., an assistant state attorney for Somerset County, Maryland. Widdowson testified about Robinson's 1979 conviction for forcible rape in Maryland. Robinson received a sentence of ten years in prison on that rape conviction, but was released early on parole. At the time of St. George's murder in 1985, Robinson was on "parole status" for his 1979 rape conviction.
B. Defense's Mitigation Evidence
After the State rested, Robinson's counsel presented Dr. Harry Krop, a clinical psychologist familiar with Robinson's background. Krop met with Robinson during March 1986, before the initial sentencing, and again on December 9, 1988, before the resentencing. During those meetings, Robinson and Krop discussed Robinson's "past history." Krop did not administer standard psychological tests "because [Robinson's] history was particularly noteworthy in terms of his own self-report and there were some other documented aspects of his history already in the records that I reviewed." Krop further explained, "[P]sychological tests are used to primarily assist in diagnosis, and ... based on the six hours that I spent with him, I felt comfortable and confident rendering a diagnosis without the use of a psychological test."
A "large portion" of what Krop learned came from Robinson himself, but Krop also "spoke to some people that knew Mr. Robinson," despite the fact that "[i]t was not easy to get a hold of family members in this case ... because of the nature of his background." Specifically, Krop spoke with (1) Robinson's biological father, the Rev. J.B. Robinson, (2) Coreen Smith, "a woman whom indicated ... she was quite familiar with Mr. Robinson, at least as a youngster, because he spent a lot of time at her house," (3) Earl Smith, "[t]he boy that Mr. Robinson spent some time with, ... [t]hat was Coreen's son, and I was able to speak with him as well whenever I called Ms. Coreen Smith," and (4) a sheriff's officer who knew Robinson from prison. Krop also reviewed (1) "a number of records from prior testimony and prior hearings," (2) Robinson's counsel's "entire file," (3) "a presentence investigation," and (4) Robinson's "Department of Corrections records."
Krop testified that the persons with whom he spoke, and the materials that he had reviewed, corroborated portions of what he and Robinson had discussed. Given its private nature, Krop explained that certain information could not be corroborated. Krop also clarified that (1) "the people who might know about some of these aspects of Mr. Robinson's background would most likely not be willing to share that information since it's not particular [sic] positive in terms of these other people," and (2) "the person who probably knows the most about Mr. Robinson, that is the man who raised him, at least for part of his life, is no longer living. So, I wasn't able to obtain any information from that source."
Having testified in many capital cases, Krop indicated his familiarity with both the statutory and nonstatutory mitigating circumstances a jury is entitled to consider under Florida law. [FN8] Krop did not believe there were any statutory mitigating circumstances in Robinson's case. [FN9] Krop, however, testified at length about Robinson's background and what he summarized as seven nonstatutory mitigating circumstances: (1) emotional deprivation; (2) physical abuse; (3) sexual abuse; (4) incarceration in an adult prison as a child; (5) psychosexual disorder; (6) intoxication at the time of the offenses; and (7) ability to function in prison without being a management problem. [FN10]
FN8. Robinson's counsel had used Krop in at least 25 to 35 capital cases. Krop also appeared in numerous capital cases for other defense attorneys, and occasionally for the State of Florida.
FN9. The statutory mitigating circumstances under Florida law at the time of Robinson's resentencing are discussed in footnote 43 infra.
FN10. What was then referred to as "nonstatutory mitigating circumstances" has since been codified as "[t]he existence of any other factors in the defendant's background that would mitigate against imposition of the death penalty." Fla. Stat. Ann. § 921.141(6)(h)
As to emotional deprivation, Krop explained that Robinson never knew his mother and he "was never really communicated with about his mother." Instead, Robinson was raised by his grandfather and grandmother, and then step- grandmother. This "was corroborated by Reverend Robinson[,] the biological father, who ... never told Mr. Robinson that the people who raised him were really not his natural parents." Krop considered Robinson to have "emotional deprivation," and believed "that when one grows up essentially without a mother and without getting love and affection, that would be a contributing factor; all again contributing to later personality development."
While growing up, Robinson was subject to "considerable physical abuse," as well as emotional abuse. Robinson's grandfather used "a black leather belt" and "[t]here were instances in which Mr. Robinson had his hands tied together and a switch was used on him." Additionally, "the grandfather or the grandmother would use a broom handle and have Mr. Robinson squat, put the broom handle between his legs and have to basically sit in a squatting position." In that squatting position, Robinson was sometimes physically hit. Coreen Smith indicated to Krop that Robinson "would often come over to her son's house, her house, and stay there for periods of time complaining that his [grand]father had hit him, complaining about the abuse." Smith also "saw the bruises on a number of occasions," and told Krop that Robinson "would try and avoid going back home."
Robinson was also sexually abused. When 7 years old, Robinson was sexually abused by an uncle, but "he did not want to tell anybody about it because he didn't want to be seen as queer." Robinson also thought that if he told his father about the sexual abuse, "that would lead to further physical abuse." When Robinson was 11 years old, his grandfather (in his 60's) married a 15 year-old-girl, and that girl also sexually abused Robinson "on a number of occasions." Legally, she "was his grandmother, but he perceived her as his stepmother, since the grandfather was ... in the role of the father." Robinson had "extreme difficulty" in disclosing to Krop this sexual abuse. A few months after his grandfather's new wife moved in, at the age of 11 or 12 Robinson ran away and started living on the streets. Robinson lived at various migrant labor camps "at the age of 12 to 13 or 14 ... during which time he again reports that he was sexually abused on a number of occasions by these individuals." During this time period, Robinson also "began getting into legal trouble." Robinson once told the authorities he was 18 years old because he did not want to be sent back home. According to Krop, Robinson has "always been a fairly large individual. Apparently there was no way that they checked and he was ultimately incarcerated in an adult prison situation at the age of 13." [FN11] Robinson, having left school in the sixth grade, finished his education in the prison system, where he obtained a GED and about 30 college credits.
FN11. Krop also testified as to his own belief that being incarcerated in an adult facility could be emotionally traumatic for a juvenile.
Krop also offered the following diagnosis: while "there is no major form of mental illness," Robinson has "an antisocial personality disorder" [FN12] and "a psychosexual disorder." [FN13] Krop further testified about Robinson's drinking and drug habits. Robinson had not used drugs throughout his life and did not consider himself an alcoholic. However, Robinson did admit to Krop that he had been drinking on the day and evening of the murder. Robinson told Krop that he started drinking around 4 p.m., when "he had a pint of Crown Royal." Robinson reported having "anywhere from two, three or four cups ... of liquor" at "a party," but he was not sure "totally sure" as to the amount. Robinson also "drank maybe two or three six-packs of beer, and ... drank another pint of Crown Royal during the night." Krop acknowledged that he had no "independent data" on exactly how much Robinson had been drinking on the day and evening of the murder.
FN12. Krop described Robinson's antisocial personality disorder, as follows: Mr. Robinson's behavior, both in terms of getting into trouble when he was in society, I would have to label him and diagnosis him as having personality disorders, specifically an antisocial personality disorder.... [W]hen an individual exhibits certain kinds of personality traits over a long period of time and those traits generally lead to the person either getting in trouble, or having difficulty functioning himself, then it is labeled as a personality disorder. And certainly looking at Mr. Robinson's background, it's understandable ... why he developed some of these personality traits, which unfortunately kept reenforcing his anger and his resentment and his feelings of rejection and inferiority.
FN13. Krop described Robinson's psychosexual disorder, as follows: Another diagnosis that I would certainly make, based on this incident, as well as previous background, is what we call a psychosexual disorder. A psychosexual disorder is ... a diagnosis given to an individual whose sexual behavior, either the behavior itself is inappropriate, such as forced sex, or the object or person to whom he is sexually attracted is inappropriate; such as a person who is attracted to young children.... [Here] we have the forced sex as an incurring [sic] incident. Psychosexual disorder is certainly an appropriate diagnosis for Mr. Robinson. Oftentimes we see individuals who suffer from psychosexual disorder as victims themselves of sexual abuse. So, it certainly did not come as any surprise when Mr. Robinson ... reported ... his own victimization in terms of sexual abuse.
The final factor to which Krop testified on direct was how Robinson functions in prison. Robinson reported to Krop that "he functions better and has ... been more productive in prison situations than he has in the community." In prison, Robinson obtained his GED and "has been involved in some tutoring." Robinson's probation officer told Krop that Robinson "does well ... [and] is not a management problem." Krop's review of Robinson's prison records confirmed that he had no disciplinary reports. During cross-examination, the State questioned Krop about whether Robinson's self-reported history was corroborated by the other people with whom Krop spoke. Krop admitted that he spoke with those individuals only on the night before resentencing. Krop acknowledged that, while Coreen and Ernest Smith had not directly observed the physical abuse of Robinson, both had seen bruises on Robinson on several occasions. Krop agreed that his testimony about Robinson's sexual abuse and emotional deprivation was based "almost entirely" on Robinson's self-reports, but Krop added that "the PSI's and various other records ... certainly indicated that he did not have a natural mother in a household in which he grew up." As to the sexual abuse, Krop stated that "any report of sexual abuse is generally from the person, himself or herself." Krop added that Robinson "was very reluctant to have me or counsel contact his family members[,] ... indicating that he did not want them to be involved and he did not feel that they were particularly relevant." According to Krop, "[i]t was only by persuasion of both Mr. Pearl [Robinson's counsel] and myself that he gave us at least two names of people we contacted."
The State also questioned why Krop considered the following factors "mitigating": (1) long-time incarceration, (2) intoxication at the time of the offenses, and (3) ability to function well in jail. The State characterized these factors as "self-induced type factors" not properly considered in mitigation. As to intoxication, Krop acknowledged that Robinson's report was "somewhat different" during his second interview in that it indicated Robinson had drank more (and started drinking earlier), but Krop noted that his questions to Robinson about drinking were also different during that second interview.
* * *
For the foregoing reasons, the district court properly concluded that the Florida Supreme Court's decision--that Robinson had not demonstrated the prejudice necessary to mandate relief--was neither contrary to, nor involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) Thus, we AFFIRM the district court's denial of Robinson's § 2254 petition.
Robinson v. State, 520 So.2d 1 (Fla. 1988). (Direct Appeal-Reversed)
Defendant was convicted by jury in the Circuit Court, St. John's County, Richard O. Watson, J., of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death, and he appealed. The Supreme Court, Barkett, J., held that: (1) detective's improper reference on cross-examination to prior burglary, in violation of order in limine, was harmless error; (2) defendant was not entitled to instruction on affirmative defense of voluntary intoxication; and (3) prosecutor's cross-examination of defendant's medical expert during penalty phase, deliberately attempting to insinuate that black defendant had habit of preying on white women, was impermissible appeal to bias and prejudice of jurors mandating reversal of death sentence and remand for new sentencing proceeding.
Affirmed in part, vacated in part and remanded for resentencing.
Robinson v. State, 574 So.2d 108 (Fla. 1991). (Direct Appeal)
Defendant was convicted in the Circuit Court, St. Johns County, Richard Watson, J., of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death, and he appealed. The Supreme Court, 520 So.2d 1, remanded for resentencing. On remand, the circuit court reimposed death sentence, and defendant again appealed. The Supreme Court, Barkett, J., held that: (1) failing to instruct jury during guilt phase to use caution in relying on testimony of accomplice was not abuse of discretion; (2) evidence was insufficient to establish that victim's murder was "heinous, atrocious, or cruel," as aggravating factor; and (3) imposing death sentence upon resentencing did not violate prohibition against double jeopardy. Affirmed. McDonald, J., concurred in result only.
Johnny L. Robinson appeals the reimposition of the death sentence. Robinson was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, and sexual battery. This Court affirmed the convictions and vacated the original sentence of death. Robinson v. State, 520 So.2d 1 (Fla.1988) Upon resentencing, the jury returned an advisory verdict, recommending death by a vote of eight to four. The trial court found six aggravating circumstances [FN2] and three nonstatutory mitigating circumstances, [FN3] and again imposed the death penalty. We affirm.
FN2. Murder committed by person under sentence of imprisonment, section 921.141(5)(a), Florida Statutes (1983); previous conviction of a violent felony, section 921.141(5)(b), Florida Statutes (1983);murder committed in course of sexual battery and kidnapping, section 921.141(5)(d), Florida Statutes (1983); murder committed to avoid arrest, section 921.141(5)(e), Florida Statutes (1983); murder especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, section 921.141(5)(h), Florida Statutes (1983); and murder committed in cold, calculated, and premeditated manner, section 921.141(5)(i), Florida Statutes (1983).
FN3. The court accepted as true that Robinson had a difficult childhood and found as a separate mitigating circumstance that Robinson suffered physical and sexual abuse during childhood. The court also accepted the opinion of Dr. Harry Krop that Robinson has a psychosexual disorder.
The resentencing jury heard evidence showing that Beverly St. George left her Plant City home, bound for Quantico, Virginia, on the morning of August 11, 1985. Her car broke down enroute. Police discovered her partially clothed body the next morning in a cemetery located in St. Johns County, with two gunshot wounds to her head. Robinson and Clinton Bernard Fields, seventeen, were arrested for the murder.
Robinson gave a statement to the police explaining that he and Fields came upon St. George's car while traveling to Orlando on I-95 and pulled over to render aid. She accompanied them to the cemetery, where Robinson alleged she engaged in consensual sexual activity on the hood of his car. Robinson claimed that the gun, which he had removed from his belt and placed on the hood, went off accidently, shooting her in the face. Robinson then shot her again, stating: "How do you tell someone I accidently shot a white woman?"
Fields testified against Robinson at the guilt phase of the first proceedings and completely contradicted Robinson's version of the crimes. He refused to testify at the resentencing hearing and the court allowed his redacted testimony to be read to the jury. That testimony indicated that Robinson pulled in behind St. George's parked car and ordered her into his car at gunpoint, where he handcuffed her. He drove to the cemetery, where he sexually assaulted her on the hood of his car. He then ordered Fields to do the same, and Fields complied. Afterward, Robinson expressed concern that she could identify them. He then walked up to her and put the gun to her cheek. Fields heard a shot, saw St. George fall, and watched Robinson stand over her and fire a second shot.
The state played a video tape of the crime scene and described the evidence recovered there, including a .22-caliber long rifle shell casing and a black purse strap.
The defense presented the testimony of Dr. Harry Krop, a clinical psychologist. Dr. Krop found significance in Robinson's background and upbringing. He testified that Robinson's childhood was marked by constant physical abuse. He was subjected to beatings with a leather belt, with a switch while his hands were tied, and to beatings while forced to squat with a broom handle between his legs for indefinite periods. Robinson also was sexually abused at the age of seven by his uncle, by the fifteen-year-old wife of his grandfather, and at migrant labor camps between the ages of twelve and fourteen. Dr. Krop testified that Robinson's background produced an antisocial personality disorder and a psychosexual disorder. He indicated that both disorders were treatable. The doctor testified that he believed seven nonstatutory mitigating circumstances existed, including Robinson's use of alcohol on the night of the offenses.
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For all the foregoing reasons, we affirm the imposition of the death sentence. It is so ordered.