Judge to rule on admissibility of defendant's comments to police cellmate

June 01, 1995|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

A Carroll judge said yesterday he will decide in a week or two if a jury can hear Roy Monroe Robertson's jail house thoughts on the 1993 killing of his friend William Charles Prodoehl.

Robertson allegedly explained to his cellmate -- who he thought was a murder suspect named Michael Anthony Saints -- where Mr. Prodoehl was when he was shot, what type of gun he was shot with, and what he and Mr. Prodoehl's wife planned to do after his death.

In fact, "Mr. Saints" was state police Tfc. George M. Forsythe.

Police said Robertson's ramblings gave investigators the big breaks they were looking for in solving Mr. Prodoehl's slaying, leading them to the weapon and cementing their months-long suspicions about Robertson's alleged involvement in the case.

But none of that may make it to a trial jury if Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. grants Robertson's request to throw his statement -- and the other evidence obtained from it -- out of court. In a daylong hearing before Judge Burns yesterday, Robertson's attorney argued that because Robertson already had told investigators and then-State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman that he had hired a lawyer, the jail house interview was unconstitutional.

"As citizens, we have the right to say, 'I'm not going to talk to you anymore, talk to my lawyer,' " said Assistant Public Defender Daniel Schemer, who now represents Robertson. "I find in this case that Mr. Hickman showed a remarkable disregard for the law. This was done with his approval, at his direction."

Robertson -- who is in state prison on a child abuse conviction -- was indicted in November, nearly 21 months after he and Gina Prodoehl found the body of her husband Feb. 17, 1993, beside the Monocacy River near Harney with two bullet holes in his head. Robertson had lived with the Westminster couple, and, according to his statements to "Mr. Saints," was having an affair with Mrs. Prodoehl.

Michael E. Kaminkow, Mrs. Prodoehl's attorney, said yesterday that his client was not involved in the slaying. "My absolute feeling is that she is not going to be charged. She had absolutely nothing to do with her husband's death," Mr. Kaminkow said. "Mr. Robertson may have his back up against a wall, and he may have said many things."

Prosecutors have never said if they intend to charge anyone else in the slaying.

Months after the killing, Robertson hired local attorneys Stephen P. Bourexis and Judith S. Stainbrook to represent him when he realized he was the prime suspect in Mr. Prodoehl's slaying, court records show. Mr. Schemer argued yesterday that it was that decision that made Mr. Hickman's planting of an undercover officer in the jail illegal.

Deputy State's Attorney Martha Ann Sitterding countered thaRobertson -- or any other person -- is not protected by a constitutional right to an attorney until after criminal charges are filed. "No matter how much Mr. Robertson wanted a lawyer, [that] cannot prevent the state from continuing its investigation," Ms. Sitterding told the judge. "Mr. Robertson placed his trust improperly. It is a risk one takes whenever one speaks to someone he does not know. He took the risk."

According to the statements, over the five days that "Mr. Saints" and Robertson bunked together, Robertson described where Mr. Prodoehl was moments before he was shot.

"I had him in my sights more than one time," he said.

Robertson said he and Mrs. Prodoehl would share a $100,000 life insurance policy on the victim, and said Mr. Prodoehl and his wife were discussing a divorce in the weeks before his death.

On at least two occasions, Robertson called Mrs. Prodoehl from his jail cell while Trooper Forsythe was listening, according to the trooper's report. "Gina was heard at one point to say, 'You keep your mouth shut,' " the report said. "Robertson replied by saying, 'You know no matter what they do to me, I won't say anything about you.' "

Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of life without parole for Robertson if he is convicted of first-degree murder. His trial is scheduled for August.

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