It started with a parking ticket and ended with a police shooting. Four years later, the defendant has yet to go to trial
stuck in pretrial detention for 48 months, a article from PIJN
This article by By Brittany Hailer, Mary Niederberger and Jody DiPerna was originally published by the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, which provides coverage of the issues that directly affect Pittsburg’s local communities and the people who live, work and go to school in them.
In the early morning hours of April 24, 2017, Todd Robinson parked a borrowed car he was driving in a Wilkinsburg alley and went to sleep.
That decision started a chain of events that began with a parking ticket, escalated to a shooting by Wilkinsburg police and landed him in the Allegheny County Jail for more than four years.
He has yet to go to trial.
On December 14, Robinson’s attorney Thomas Farrell is scheduled to argue before Common Pleas Judge Randal Todd that his client should be released because he has not been brought to trial within the statutory amount of time of 180 days. The right to a speedy trial is guaranteed under Rule 600 of the Pennsylvania Code. Rule 600 motions had been suspended by President Judge Kimberly Berkeley Clark at the onset of the pandemic in April, 2020. That suspension was lifted on October 21.
Farrell could not be reached for comment and it is unclear why Robinson has spent more than four years in the county jail without going to trial.
Court records indicate Farrell is Robinson’s third lawyer and on eight different dates since November 2017, the case was put on the docket for a trial that hasn’t occurred. Robinson was offered a plea deal in June 2017 and again in October 2020, but he turned down both because he says he wants to go to trial to prove his innocence.
Mike Manko, spokesperson for the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office, said the office does not comment on pending cases.
Sandra Mayson, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, said: “There are supposed to be constraints on the duration of pretrial detention, but the constraints are not effective. There are statutory speedy trial rules in most states. And then there’s a constitutional limit—the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial—but it’s a very amorphous standard and the time is halted or paused when the defendant continues the trial. It’s just not a very robust guarantee.”
The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts provides data on the adjudication of criminal cases across the Commonwealth and by county. In Allegheny County, less than one percent of the criminal cases which were resolved in 2019 went to jury trial.
In addition to the unusually long pre-trial confinement, how did a routine traffic ticket—a citation which falls under the civil code —turn into a violent confrontation which ended in a man being shot? Robinson questions why the Wilkinsburg police requested identification from him when they were making a welfare check?
Wilkinsburg Police Chief Ophelia Coleman declined to comment for this story.
While questions regarding the case remain unanswered, a review by the Pittsburgh Institute of Nonprofit Journalism of police investigative records, legal filings and interviews with Robinson bring together details of the events that led to Robinson’s shooting and detention.
Here is the story that emerges.
Todd Robinson was staying with a friend in New Castle. But on the night of April 24, 2017, he visited someone in the east end of Pittsburgh. His visit ended sometime after midnight, and instead of driving back to New Castle, he decided to sleep in the borrowed black Hyundai he was driving as he had plans to meet his cousin at an auto body shop in Wilkinsburg at 8 a.m.
At about 3 a.m., he parked the car on Taylor Way, a narrow, dark alley in Wilkinsburg, reclined the driver’s seat, pulled his jacket over him for a blanket and went to sleep. […]
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