A state appeals court reversed the first-degree murder conviction of a Westminster man yesterday, saying the judge should have specifically told jurors to consider the defendant's alibi.
Roy Monroe Robertson, 47, won a new trial from the Court of Special Appeals because Carroll County Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. denied his request that jurors be instructed to consider his statements that he was running errands the afternoon William Charles Prodoehl was shot.
Burns sentenced Robertson to life without parole in 1995 after he was convicted of first-degree murder for shooting Prodoehl twice in the head Feb. 18, 1993, near Starner's Dam on the Monocacy River near Taneytown.
Robertson also was sentenced to a consecutive 15 year-term for use of a handgun in the commission of a felony.
Police said Robertson had a three-year affair with Prodoehl's wife, Gina, and that he killed the victim out of jealousy and for half of a $100,000 insurance policy that named her as beneficiary.
Assistant public defender Daniel Shemer said yesterday that the alibi instruction was critical to Robertson because his defense was that a rival lover had killed Prodoehl. Jurors often decide based on the judge's instructions, Shemer said.
"Unfortunately, what the judge tells the jury carries a lot of weight, and when a judge asks them to consider something, they generally are more likely to give it the consideration it deserves," Shemer said.
Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes said he will again seek life without parole when he retries the case.
Robertson did not testify at his 14-day murder trial. But a state police sergeant testified that Robertson told him he was running errands and meeting with Gina Prodoehl in Westminster at the time of the murder.
Two of the three appeals court judges assigned to review the conviction said that was sufficient evidence to require an alibi instruction. Such an instruction is necessary for jurors to convict a defendant "beyond a reasonable doubt," the court said.
"When warranted by the facts and circumstances of the particular case, alibi instructions reinforce a guiding principle of our criminal jurisprudence that the burden is always with the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was present at the scene of the crime," Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. wrote.
Judge James S. Getty wrote in dissent that Robertson's statements to police on their own did not amount to an alibi defense.
"I find it difficult, if not impossible, to accept that a defendant who presents no evidence of an alibi is relying on an alibi defense," he wrote.
Robertson was indicted in 1994 after he was arrested on charges of sexually molesting several children. While being held at the Carroll County Detention Center, he gave a detailed account of the slaying to a cellmate who turned out to be an undercover state trooper.