Sunday, April 30, 2006

Weekend update...hints of a motive...

Friday's testimony was short and as happened on Thursday witnesses did not want to be video taped, one agreed to be audio taped but not video taped.

As was hinted during Kina's testimony, Sister Margaret Ann Pahl was upset over Good Friday Mass being shortened, this was confirmed by one of the witnesses on Friday.

I'm not sure how that will play out, for anyone who is a Catholic or was a Catholic, disagreements between Nuns and Priests are not that uncommon. It's kind of hard to imagine a Priest getting upset over a Nun taking issue with that, even if it turns out to be Father Robinson who shortened the Mass.

The testimony about the blood in the sink seems strange given there was no photographic evidence. It would be interesting to find out who told that particular housekeeper to 'keep her mouth shut'on the blood in the sink.

Lots of questions still remain and despite 13's coverage on Friday giving the impression that Father Robinson is guilty or that this case has anything to do with sexual abuse cases... I'm going to keep the speculation to a minimum and promote the basics. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty and hope that Sister Margaret Ann Pahl's murder is solved and if the real killer turns out to be Father Robinson that he is punished to the full extent of the law.

I probably won't watch 13's interviews on this case anymore though, especially if they are not even going to attempt to be unbiased. I'll stick with WTOL or NBC24 or Fox36

It's been reported that the prosecution will end the presentation of this case earlier than expected, so perhaps the trial won't take the 30 days initially stated.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Updates from yesterday

David Yonke of the Toledo Blade provides an update of testimony from yesterday.

An interesting article about Forensic Serology. It really gives a lot of information for anyone who is interested in reading more about some of the details we've heard during this trial as far as blood evidence.

WTVG 13 also provides a daily written account of highlights of the trial. All of the local television stations listed on the sidebar also have video highlights available.

While this trial is of course to determine the innocence or guilt of Father Gerald Robinson, regardless of the outcome Sister Margaret Ann Pahl was murdered.

This website has a link to a 2004 Blade article called "A Family Remembers Its Sister, Slain Nun's Piety Obscured in Details of Bizarre Death.

And if there was any question as to the international attention this trial has gotten, The Guardian in England has an Associated Press report.

Since local rumors are again swelling about ritual murders happening near Swanton back in 1985. This might be helpful as far as refreshing fiction from fact:

Five years after the Mercy Hospital nun was strangled and stabbed, tips, surveillance, and an infrared aerial sweep of Spencer Township prompted Lucas County Sheriff James Telb and investigators to spend two days excavating a woody area in western Lucas County. They were looking for the bodies of 50 to 60 babies and children who reportedly had been sacrificed over several years during cult rituals.

"We hear these things for 4 1/2 months, we had to act on it," the sheriff told The Blade yesterday.

Investigators found nothing of substance, and the dig was abandoned.

Sheriff Telb said yesterday he was not contacted by investigators reviewing the 1980 murder case, and he's unsure if there are any links between it and the 1985 tips about satanic rituals that his department pursued.

In fact, he acknowledged, children most likely never were sacrificed in the area they searched. A missing child who reportedly had been sacrificed, Charity Freeman, turned up years later in California. She had been abducted by her grandfather.

"If there were [human] bodies there, we would have found them," Sheriff Telb said.

Still, Sheriff Telb noted, surveillance reports on the area preceding the digs indicated some sort of ritual, and investigators found animal bones, knives, and a cache of children's clothing.

If there was an award for one of the most biased headlines...this far it would go to New York Post 'SATAN CULT' PRIEST ON TRIAL IN '80 NUN SLAY - CHILLING EVIDENCE IN UNHOLY CRIME AS DECADES-OLD MYSTERY UNRAVELS

I guess that's a good reminder that while I may not agree with our local media at times, at least they have handled this more professionally than the New York Post.

A bad thing about speculation

It's easy for us to play arm chair prosecutors or the defense and local television has had it's share of experts.

Yet, until the trial is completed and it's in the hands of the jury all we are doing is speculating. Even I couldn't help thinking today that if there is reasonable doubt created about the use of the letter opener, since a pair of scissors was missing and never recovered that doesn't automatically mean that Father Robinson is innocent. All that could mean is he used a pair of scissors. It is strange that none of his DNA was discovered but it could also mean that they didn't test enough samples. That issue would probably lead more to a finding of not guilty than debating the letter opener versus scissors.

That's why I have been providing updates but not interjecting alot of personal opinion into these posts. I don't think that's helpful.

I think it is valid for the media to point out that blood transfer is a new methodology but even if an expert is stating he doesn't think the prosecution did a good job or feels they did do a good job these experts are not on the jury.

As a reminder, Court TV is not only carrying the trial live but they are offering a 30 day free trial for Court Tv extra where you can view the trial thru streaming video or taped video of most of the testimony.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Yesterday's testimony

WTVG has part of the summary. So far no one has the video of former detective William Kina which is strange. Not even Court TV has that as a saved video. They have the testimony and the cross examination of the two sisters and the Prosecution with William Kina.

WTOL 11 doesn't have it either despite their claim that they will have full video they have very little on that either.

Despite earlier critiques of the Blade coverage, this developing news report does mention this.

David Yonke's article gives his opinion of yesterday's testimony.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Testimony begins

One of the nuns who was at Mercy Hospital the morning of the murder is on the stand. It's obviously hard for her to go back thru that day as well as parts that she doesn't remember clearly after this time period.

Sister Margaret Ann Pahl's cross and watch were stated as missing after her murder. At this point it doesn't appear that they were ever found.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Opening Statements

You can't tell a lot about the outcome of a trial by the opening statements, but if you have watched them WTOL has the complete video of both, it does give you an idea as to how the prosecution and the defense is looking at this trial.

I'll say it for those of you who watched it, while I think Mr. Konop did a good job, I couldn't help thinking of the "if it does not fit you must acquit" statement as he made the comparison of the puzzle pieces. Which was a good analogy, it was just a thought that hit me as I heard him repeat the not fitting statement.

This is a circumstantial evidence trial, yet people are found guilty based on circumstantial evidence. The next few weeks will determine that no matter how well either side did on opening arguments.

More Coverage begins

WTOL has streaming video of portions of the trial.

If you have Buckeye, they are covering the trial on channel 111

Toledo Blade's update of today

Blade update on final jury selection from yesterday

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Don't mess with Judge Osowik

From the Toledo Blade:

One woman said she feels the Catholic Church "has gotten off too easy" in the crisis involving clerical sexual abuse of children, but that she could be impartial because this is a murder case, not a molestation case.

When Father Robinson's defense attorneys asked for her to be dismissed, Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Thomas Osowik agreed and ordered her removed. That sparked a brief, but heated exchange with assistant Lucas County prosecutor Dean Mandros.

Mr. Mandros cited the woman's statements that she could be objective in reviewing the facts of the case, but the judge slammed his hand on the bench and said, "I've had it! That's my ruling."

WTOL reports some additional information:

Later, things heated up again when prosecutors wanted the jury order to be re-shuffled. They believed there were too many Catholics scheduled to be in the first batch of jurors that will be questioned Thursday. The state fears that could create a bias.

Prosecutor Larry Kiroff said, "Equally troubling is the fact that we feel that, based upon the current makeup of the jurors -- especially jurors 1 through 20 -- that the idea of going forward with the jurors as they are numbered is a strategic defense on the part of the defense counsel."

"This is the shuffle," said defense attorney Alan Konop. "This is the way it was shuffled. It's sufficient, and to infer in any way whatsoever that our position is that we want a deck to be stacked -- something about the fact, about those Catholics -- I think that's preposterous. I think that's insulting."

Judge Osowik decided the matter. "It's still a random assignment," he said. "The defendant, having no objection, I'm going to keep it in the order that it was assigned."

NBC24 has the re-dacted list of the Prosecution's witnesses.

Interestingly enough Chet Warren who has been named as one of the other priests involved in abuse by the unidentified woman who sent the four page letter that started the re-opening of this case. Also noted is several of the nuns that are listed as witnesses are either deceased or health reasons will not allow them to testify.

NBC 24 has jumped on the create a banner image for the trial bandwagon.

Fox 36 reports that Court TV is ready to start broadcasting the trial.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Media updates on Murder Trial

Updates on jury selection continuing today.

Highlights from yesterday's jury selection.

CNN their coverage of yesterday.

WTOL has several video pieces to select from including one about the scene of the crime.

WTVG also has several video pieces

NBC24 several pieces including one on what the lawyers are looking for in a jury.

Fox 36 has a short update on yesterday's jury selection.

That's about it at this stage of the trial, which is expected to wrap up Jury selection and begin on Thursday.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Jury Selection begins

A pool of 99 prospective jurors was divided into four groups and each of the jurors was undergoing invidual questioning that lasted between 10 and 20 minutes each.

The judge and attorneys for the Lucas County prosecutor's office and a
team of four defense attorneys asked a number of questions about the
prospective jurors' religious backgrounds and whether they could be
impartial in a case that involves a priest accused of killing a nun.

Three of the first four prospective jurors were Roman Catholics who said
their faith would not prevent them from reaching an impartial decision,
although one woman said she would find it difficult to believe that a
priest could commit a cardinal sin.

I'm assuming the one woman who stated she would find it difficult to believe a priest would commit a cardinal sin will not make it into the final jury pool. While I agree it is troubling that someone who is a priest would not find it necessary to confess (if he is guilty) Priests are still human and they are capable of sin.

According to WTOL one woman has been excused because she stated she would put God's law above man's law. Not sure if that is the same woman as above.

Another priest was named by "Jane Doe"

The Toledo Blade has not mentioned this but Bill Frogameni's article names one of the other priests accused of being involved in the ritual abuse:

This “Jane Doe” letter also names former priest Chet Warren, Barbara Blaine’s abuser. (Blaine is the founder and president of SNAP) On behalf of Warren, the diocese and the Oblates of St. Francis DeSales have paid Blaine and others monetary settlements. Blaine said she can’t recall any ritualistic abuse from Warren, but both she and Vercellotti claim to know at least five alleged victims of Warren who identify such abuse.

Jury Selection begins...Blade's Yonke predicts drama

While I am interested in this case and I am following it as closely as I can, I'm more interested in seeing that the truth is discovered rather than being "entertained":

Thanks to the popular CSI television programs, today's juries expect a show in the courtroom - and prosecutors in the murder trial of the Rev. Gerald Robinson don't plan to let them down.

The prosecution is expected to augment its case with plenty of visuals, including the use of charts, videotapes, and high-tech "smart boards" that integrate the display functions of a laptop computer and an erasable whiteboard.

I can't help wondering how honest people will admit as to the question of bias for or against the Roman Catholic Church. If some of the recent polls in this area are an indication, as well as some of the previous discussion on message boards it's clear there are quite a few people in this area that are anti-Catholic, more than that are vocal about being pro-Catholic. That's one of the downsides to a jury trial for something like this. You have to hope that the jurors will be honest. Given the behavior of several past juries when it comes to cases that are known are going to be high profile I hope this jury is focusing more on the case rather than what type of interview deals they can make after it is over.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

More information on the Father Robinson Murder Trial

The Toledo Blade has an article this morning that outlines the statements of a woman who approached the Church wanting reimbursement for costs related to her therapy necessary because she claims she was abused by several priests several decades ago.

While the Blade article doesn't warn you that her claims are somewhat disturbing, I will warn you...Some of what is below might disturb you:

In the fall of 2003, the victim, now in her mid-40s, delivered a four-page typewritten letter to the Toledo diocese detailing her allegations in hopes that church officials would pay for her therapy bills.

In her testimony, she described being subjected to Satanic ceremonies in which priests placed her in a coffin filled with cockroaches, forced her to eat what she thought was a human eyeball, and penetrated her with a snake “to consecrate these orifices to Satan.”

She also alleged that the group of clerics killed an infant and a 3-year-old child, performed an abortion on her, and chopped up dogs during the rituals.

This was what opened up the cold case investigation into the death of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl because the woman claimed that Father Robinson was one of the priests involved in this. Father Robinson has not been convicted as being a part of that nor charged. Nor have any of the other priests that were claimed to have been involved identified.

John Connors, a former seminarian who retired after 25 years as a police officer, was hired by the Toledo diocese to investigate the woman’s allegations.

“I think she told the truth,” Mr. Connors said flatly this week. “I interviewed her, almost 20 hours’ worth, and I got a pretty good feel for it.”

No one has stated anything about a missing person's report on the three year old or the infant that was claimed to have been killed, nor has much more of John Connor's statement's been covered so I'm not exactly sure how or why he feels she was telling the truth. You would think if two children had also truly been murdered there would have been an attempt to resolve that situation rather than just a claim for monetary damages to reimburse someone for counseling. Even if a person had gone thru something that traumatic why would they focus just on money rather than trying to get some type of justice for a young child and a baby being murdered? That part of I'll never understand, as well as why no other priests were publicly identified.

Not to be graphic, but the whole concept of being penetrated by a snake is a common myth yet logically anyone who has handled a snake knows how difficult that is to even imagine as a possible event. I'm not going to present myself as an expert on Satanic rituals, however, a coffin full of cockroaches is not something you would normally expect, it is more along the lines of the television show Fear Factor which did do that back on March of 2002.

I'm not the only one that finds part of this statement as to be questionable. Religion News Blog has a post on this as well. People do take this seriously, most people do not probably remember that back in 1999 the Government of Kenya took such claims of ritual abuse seriously to the point of establishing a Presidential Commission on Devil Worship.

While slightly off topic, this brings up one of my main issues with the Catholic Church, their willingness to pay off people who claim to be victims which creates the assumption of guilt. While I'm sure in some cases some of these people really have been abused, I am just as certain that some have not been or not to the degree described. Even if every person who claims to have been abused was, you don't make it go away by paying people off, and if there are claims made like this one where children were murdered, something more should have been done. With that amount of killings and bloodshed involving babies, children, dogs, etc., surely even after all of these years some forensic evidence could be located.

This article by New House News contains some information the Blade article does not, including this:

The allegations of dark rituals have aroused interest, and antagonism as well.

"That's just a ... smokescreen," said Dave Davison, a retired Toledo police officer who was the first to see the body.

It is one of the few points of agreement between Davison and retired Deputy Chief Ray Vetter, who was in charge of detectives at the time.

Davison accuses the city's heavily Roman Catholic police department of colluding with the diocese.

Robinson was a suspect from the beginning -- probably the only other point on which the two former cops agree.

"This officer (Davison), he's come up with an awful lot of outlandish stuff," Vetter said in a telephone interview. He agreed there were no signs of any ritual and that Robinson emerged as the main suspect.

The suspect list narrowed down to Robinson "because we didn't have anyone else," and because of his close association with the dead nun, Vetter said. Deception by the priest also heightened suspicion.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Father Robinson Trial starts Monday

Toledo is once again in the headlines for news that isn't necessarily something to be proud of our area for. Most of the local media has already started to focus on the trial with WTOL already taking the lead on capitalizing on this and has a special graphic announcing the trial and have announced that nation wide media including Court TV will be here. A special room for the media has been set up. Gee I wonder if as a blogger I could qualify as media...

There is the Time line for the murder, WTOL has also taken a look at all of the key members of the prosecution and the defense as well as a few of those expected to testify.

If you need further evidence that WTOL is trying to become the "Father Robinson News Source" they even have a poll asking how Toledo residents feel about him wearing his clerical collar to court. Rather ironic given they even refer to him as "Father Robinson" and he is still a priest. I guess the concept that someone is innocent until proven guilty has no bearing on it.

Locally the discussion has been on that topic and the recent escapades of SNAP members Claudia Vercellotti and Jon Schoonmaker who had their attempt to cash in on some publicity almost diminished by a Diocese Staff member ,who refused them entry with the Blade reporter making his bias pretty obvious with this statement:

Ms. Stein stood patiently but impassively, reciting her statements coldly and impersonally.

How dare Ms. Stein try to stop them from their moment in the cameras. Realistically Claudia got more mileage from the "rejection" and one can't help but wondering what is wrong with the postal service or the many other services out there that will deliver letters with proof of delivery. If the real intent was to deliver a letter rather than to be infront of the cameras...

Is Father Robinson guilty? I have no idea, but I am willing to do something really unique these days. Not pre-decide because he is still innocent at this point. Many things don't make sense about this and the harder those out there try to pre-determine his guilt the more I decide there is more to this. Will that come out thru this trial or will it end up being like so many other cases that the truth is never known.

That's what we will find out in the days to come. Yes, I'll continue to post about the trial, and update as more happens. I guess the one "detective" who was posting all over the local blogs earlier this year claiming that this case would never make it to trial because they would make some kind of a deal that allowed Father Robinson to walk was wrong. Let's hope the rest of the trial is based on more reliable information than what he claimed was a certainty.

As a full disclosure...I am Catholic and I don't have a lot of admiration for those who have tried to destroy the Church rather than focus on the victims. Priests who abuse children should be punished, the same as the larger numbers of abusers of children should be. So, if you are one of those that feels that all or a majority of Priests are pedophiles and you "know" Father Robinson is guilty? You probably won't like my blog coverage.


However, even though this site focuses on "Clergy Ritual Abuse" even titling the webpage this information is listed on with "Priests of Darkness". It does contain a lot of the information from the Toledo Blade and other sources for those looking for more background information.

Also worth pointing out the Toledo Blade reporter, David Yonke has an upcoming book on this case. Which is due to be released in September. I'm sure he'd appreciate the publicity.