Jail conversation can be used at trial

June 20, 1995|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

A Carroll jury will be allowed to hear Roy Monroe Robertson's incriminating jail house thoughts on the 1993 killing of his friend William Charles Prodoehl, a Carroll judge ruled yesterday.

The decision by Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. came nearly three weeks after Mr. Robertson's attorney argued that his client's conversations with an undercover state police trooper were inadmissible at trial.

Judge Burns found that the placing of Tfc. George M. Forsythe in Mr. Robertson's Carroll County Detention Center cell last year was not "unfair or in violation" of the defendant's rights.

The judge said that because prosecutors did not violate the Constitution, he would allow all evidence police obtained from the statements -- including the whereabouts of the murder weapon -- to be presented during Mr. Robertson's trial in August for first-degree murder.

For about a week in the jail, Mr. Robertson allegedly explained to his cellmate -- a purported murder suspect named Michael Anthony Saints -- where Mr. Prodoehl was when he was shot, what type of gun he was shot with and that he and Gina Prodoehl, the victim's wife, were having an affair and planned to split the proceeds from life insurance policy on her husband.

Mrs. Prodoehl's attorney, Michael E. Kaminkow, has said she was not involved in the slaying.

Assistant Carroll Public Defender Daniel Shemer, Mr. Robertson's defense attorney, had argued in court that the jail house interview was unconstitutional because Mr. Robertson already had told investigators and then-State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman that he had hired a lawyer.

Judge Burns said in his decision yesterday that the constitutional guarantee to legal assistance begins only when a formal criminal charge is filed, something that would not happen in Mr. Robertson's case until nearly 10 months after his jail house conversations with "Mr. Saints."

Those conversations 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 Mr. Robertson's alleged involvement in the case.

Mr. Robertson is now awaiting trial in the Carroll County Detention Center after time in state prison for a child abuse conviction.

He 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.

Mr. Robertson had lived with the Westminster couple.

Mr. Shemer was on vacation yesterday and could not be reached for comment on the judge's decision.

State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes and his deputy, Martha Ann Sitterding, were out of town at a convention and could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Robertson's trial is expected to last more than a week.

Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of life without parole if he is convicted of first-degree murder.

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