By Matt Ward
Nine days after being convicted of second degree murder, the man who shot and killed his daughter’s 21-year-old boyfriend in 2011 is already asking for a new trial.
Lawyers for Daniel Robbins filed a motion for a new trial on Thursday, arguing that several errors of law were made leading up to their client’s Nov. 20 conviction.
Robbins’ lawyers say they should have been able to show the jury a video of an accidental shooting to better inform jurors of how easily a gun can go off, even in the hands of a police officer.
Also, a jury instruction about the definition of trespassing was not allowed, which the defense says also hurt its case.
Third, the motion suggests prosecutors in the case were allowed to make “numerous untrue and high (sic) inflammatory statements” during their closing arguments, which inflamed the passions of the jury.
“The prosecutor’s misconduct was detrimental to Robbins and led to the adverse verdict against him,” the motion reads, adding, “The accumulation of errors of law addressed above deprives Robbins of a fair trial.”
Robbins was convicted of putting a gun to the neck of Chris Mundy on Aug. 18, 2011 as the younger man sat frozen in a vehicle in Robbins’ Benson Circle driveway. Robbins pulled the trigger, sending a bullet through Mundy’s neck and into the arm of a then-14-year-old witness in the case, Pablo Flores.
Robbins was convicted of the murder charge as well as two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and a single count of battery with a deadly weapon. A fifth charge is listed in the motion that was previously not reported — battery causing substantial bodily harm. All four additional charges are felonies and Robbins faces as much as life in prison, though he is more likely to receive a lighter sentence at his Feb. 11 sentencing hearing.
Robbins’ attorney Dan Winder writes in the motion that Judge Robert Lane hurt the defense’s ability to present the entire theory of its case when he refused to instruct the jury on the legal definition of trespass.
“The entire theory of Robbins’ case stems from the trespass of Chris Mundy and Pablo Flores onto Robbins’ property in the middle of the night. Without being instructed on the mere definition of trespass, the jury was left to speculate as to whether or not the actions of Mundy and Flores did in fact form a trespass. This error of law left Robbins defendant (sic) with a gaping hole,” the motion read.
Deputy District Attorney Tierra Jones repeatedly told jurors during the weeks-long trial that anything Mundy or Flores did the night of the shooting had no bearing on the case — neither Mundy nor Flores were on trial for anything, she said over and over. And defense attorneys repeated just as often the mantra that their client was defending his family and property that night, calling Mundy a trespasser and an intruder multiple times throughout the trial.
Regarding the misconduct allegations, the defense motion suggests that no single prosecution statement inflamed the jury, but in their totality the statements denied Robbins a fair trial.
“Initially the prosecutor made statements characterizing Robbins’ actions as ‘coming out of the house with guns blazing.’ This characterization can only be intended to inflame the passions of the jury and as such is highly inappropriate,” the motion states.
Another phrase defense attorneys took umbrage with was when Jones characterized the shooting as an “execution.”
“There was no testimony or evidence that could extrapolate to this conclusion. ‘Execution’ is a type of killing which is not indicated in any way shape or form in this case,” Winder’s motion argues.
Also inflammatory was the suggestion to the jury that Robbins could see Mundy’s hands on the steering wheel of the car that night — hence, the argument that Robbins fired knowing Mundy didn’t have a weapon. But Winder’s motion says Robbins never said that and the evidence didn’t show it.
“All of the prosecutor’s misstatements in their totality deprived Robbins of his right to a fair trial and to be free from emotions and sympathy of the jury,” the motion reads.
Finally, Winder lays out yet another argument in the motion for a new trial, this time alleging juror misconduct. The mother of Flores allegedly encountered a juror in the bathroom of the courthouse.
“It is clear that the mother of Pablo Flores, Tammy, initiated a contact with one of the jurors when she entered the bathroom immediately upon seeing one of the jurors enter the bathroom. This appearance of impropriety is enough to initiate an inquiry by the court and to possibly hold an evidentiary hearing as to what if anything the juror was told by Ms. Flores. … At a minimum failure to do so would result in an infirm conviction of Robbins and clearly would be reversible error,” the motion states.
Prosecutors are expected to file an opposition to the motion before Robbins’ sentencing hearing. Efforts to reach Jones for comment were not successful by press time.