By Matt Ward
The man accused of murdering his daughter’s 21-year-old boyfriend last year took the stand Wednesday in his own defense.
Daniel Robbins testified in his ongoing murder trial that he didn’t mean to shoot and kill Chris Mundy on Aug. 18, 2011, sticking to the defense strategy that his 1980s Makarov pistol, which he claimed he bought for family protection, accidentally discharged as he had the gun pressed to the young victim’s neck.
Prosecutors used the testimony to attempt to introduce previously unheard evidence to rebut the defense’s assertions that Daniel Robbins, who jurors heard didn’t have an arrest record or criminal history to speak of, was merely a gentle family man compelled to protect his loved ones that night.
Daniel Robbins said on the stand that he’d only fired the gun one time previous to Aug. 18, that he’d never had any weapons training or even previously used the gun in any manner. Further, he regretted Mundy’s death and wished now he’d had more gun safety training.
To rebut some of those assertions, prosecuting attorneys attempted to admit evidence to show Robbins lied on the stand. He’d certainly used the gun once before — he pointed the weapon a year prior at the same daughter, Jennifer Robbins, whose boyfriend he’s charged with murdering, they said.
“The state intends to recall Jennifer Robbins as a rebuttal witness based upon the fact that the testimony elicited during direct examination, basically the defendant testified that this was the only weapon he owned, he only uses this weapon to protect his family and basically he was portrayed to this jury as a peaceful human being who’s never done anything wrong. Well, Jennifer Robbins didn’t tell that to Det. David Boruchowitz.
“Jennifer Robbins told Det. Boruchowitz there was a point a year prior to this where her dad believed she was pregnant and he pulled that gun on her, and he pointed it at her, but he didn’t shoot her,” Deputy District Attorney Tierra Jones argued outside the presence of the jury on Wednesday.
This was the third instance in which the state attempted to admit evidence that would poke holes in the defense’s portrayal of Daniel Robbins as nothing more than a peaceful family man.
It was the second time prosecutors wanted to turn the defendant’s own words against him.
Earlier Judge Robert Lane denied a prosecution effort to admit into the record the password Daniel Robbins used to access his personal Internet account — he and his wife Kathie engaged in a ferocious Internet altercation with Mundy before the shooting. Though not said openly in court, prosecutors made it clear the password would prove Daniel Robbins was not as clean cut as he would have jurors believe, alluding to the use of an expletive in the password.
Defense attorney Arnold Weinstock argued that uttering the password in front of jurors would only inflame them and not serve any purpose in proving whether Mundy’s death was intentional.
Another instance of intense argument outside the presence of jurors, this one more successful for prosecutors, was when the state called a deputy who was at the Robbins’ home the day before Mundy’s shooting, when events that led to the shooting were originally set in motion.
On the stand, Daniel Robbins said that he’d called police to his house on the day before Mundy’s shooting death because his daughter was attempting to take a car he’d purchased for her — she was moving out to be with Mundy in Las Vegas, which the parents had just discovered in the days leading up to the shooting. He told jurors the reason he wanted to keep her from taking the car was because it was mechanically unsound.
Prosecutors pounced on that statement, calling Deputy Jason Heaney to the stand to testify about what Robbins told him on the day in question. Coincidentally, this was the police call that led to Jennifer Robbins’ arrest on domestic battery charges — she hit her little sister — which led to her calling Mundy for help from jail in the hours before the shooting.
Heaney told the jury that Robbins said he was keeping the car because his daughter was moving out against the wishes of her parents and that he intended to “dismantle the car into a million pieces,” contradicting what the murder suspect told the jury from the stand.
Weinstock, outside the presence of the jury, attempted to keep the exchange away from jurors.
“What does that have to do with this case? Nothing. Nothing at all,” he said.
Lane did not agree this time and allowed the jury to hear what Heaney had to say.
Finally, when it came to whether the jury would hear evidence that Daniel Robbins had previously pointed the gun he used to kill Mundy with at his own daughter, Lane said he would err on the side of caution, feeling an appellate issue could be raised if he allowed it.
“The only purpose in offering it is to show he’s not as peaceable as he implied to the jury?” Lane asked Jones. “That’s pretty weak. I mean, the impression he gave to the jury wasn’t that great. He didn’t use those words and say ‘hey, I’ve never done a violent act in my life; I’ve always been at peace.’ He didn’t say he’s never touched the weapon before or used it. It’s all kind of just a penumbra.”
Jones attempted one last time to sway the judge.
“Right, but judge, he was equivocal on more than one occasion that he uses the weapon to protect his family. I don’t think pointing it at your daughter who you believe is pregnant is protecting your family.”
The judge denied the effort, much to the defense’s relief.
Still, besides Heaney’s testimony, other prosecution efforts were made in the cross-examination portion of Daniel Robbins’ testimony to paint the defendant as less than honest. Prosecutors played jailhouse recordings between Daniel Robbins and his wife where it appeared the suspect was coaching Kathie Robbins on what to say, namely that she accidentally bumped the gun while he was confronting Mundy in the driveway of their family’s home that August night.
On the stand, Daniel Robbins merely brushed aside the prosecution’s suggestion that he was already concocting a defense, saying he was merely confused and that he actually thought at the time that his wife had “jostled” his hand, making the gun go off.
Asked if he still thought that was the case, he said he no longer did.
The defense rested its case Wednesday. Because of scheduling conflicts, the jurors won’t hear closing arguments until Monday afternoon.
Daniel Robbins could get life in prison if convicted on an open count of murder. He also faces charges related to an injury suffered by a juvenile passenger with Mundy the night of the shooting. That person was struck in the elbow by the bullet that passed through Mundy’s neck.