Jury Vote: 9-3 For Death, Robinson Gets Life

By: Cayle Thompson Email
By: Cayle Thompson Email

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It is not the verdict prosecutors or the family of murdered teenager Chelsea Brooks wanted, but it still means her killer will never again be free.

Tuesday afternoon, one week after a jury of eight women and four men convicted 22-year-old Elgin Robinson of capital murder, Robinson listened as his life was spared.

He showed no emotion at first, but smiled at reporters in the courtroom as he was lead away by sheriff's deputies.

Jurors were unable to reach the unanimous verdict necessary to sentence Robinson to death by lethal injection. The final vote was nine in favor of death, three for life.

Brooks family quietly left the courtroom shortly after the verdict was read. Brooks sister tells KAKE News she's disappointed in the jury's inability to reach an unanimous verdict, but appreciates that Robinson will at least spend the rest of his days in prison without the possibility for parole.

Prosecutors say its time the focus shifted away from Robinson and back to Brooks.

"This is a case about Chelsea Brooks," said Deputy District Attorney Kevin O'Connor Tuesday. "This is about the totally uneccessary murder of this innocent little girl."

O'Connor says the most important aspect of the trial was the guilty verdict reached last week after about four hours of deliberations by jurors.

Robinson is convicted of masterminding the murder-for-hire of Chelsea Brooks when she was only 14 years old. Prosecutors say he did it to avoid child rape charges. Brooks was pregnant with his daughter, and her parents wanted to pursue criminal charges against Robinson once DNA testing could prove he was the baby's father.

Robinson now joins co-defendants Everett Gentry and Theodore Burnett in prison. Gentry and Burnett are also serving life sentences, though because Gentry confessed and testified against the other two, he will have a chance at parole in 25 years. Burnett, like Robinson, will never be paroled.

Robinson's attorneys say they will appeal his conviction. Robinson is scheduled to be sentenced on December 5th.

A detailed account of Tuesday's proceedings can be found below, along with additional information on the Kansas Death Penalty.

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Update - Tuesday, 3:00PM

The jury returns to the courtroom, now packed with loved ones of both Chelsea Brooks and Elgin Robinson.

The jury hands their verdict to the judge's aid. She reads it aloud.

"We the jury... are unable to reach unanimous verdict sentencing the defendant to death."

There is little reaction from the courtroom or from Robinson.

Robinson will be formally sentenced on Dec. 5th at 8:45 in the morning. He will not be eligible for parole.

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Update - Tuesday, 2:25PM

Jurors announce they have reached a verdict. All sides are headed back to the courtroom. The verdict will be read aloud shortly.

Jurors must agree unanimously in order for Robinson to receive the death penalty. If only one juror dissents, he will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In co-defendant Theodore Burnett's case, jurors also deliberated for under four hours. They were unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

Stay with KAKE.com for immediate updates as soon as the jury's decision is announced.

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Update - Tuesday, 10:40AM

Robinson's fate now lies in the hands of the jury.

Attorneys on both sides have ended their closing arguments.

During rebuttal, Deputy District Attorney Marc Bennett told jurors they should not feel any guilt for imposing a death sentence. He points to Robinson and says because of the decisions he made, Robinson is responsible for his own fate; jurors must only enact the law.

Jurors are now in deliberations. Stay with KAKE News and KAKE.com. We'll have news of the verdict as soon as jurors reach a decision.

Below is a recap of this morning's events, with additional information on the Kansas Death Penalty at the bottom.

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Update - Tuesday, 10:20AM

Robinson's defense attorney, Paul Oller, addresses jurors. He asks jurors to spare Robinson's life.

Oller recounts some of the testimony shared by Robinson's friends and family. He says each has given you reasons why Robinson should be allowed to live.

Oller says: "Ultimately, the decision between life and death is up to each of you individually..... Is there something in your heart that says death is not the appropriate punishment?"

Oller says this is his first death penalty trial, but that he believes every murder is heinous and cruel. He says to single this one out above others for that reason is unfair.

Oller holds the death penalty form up to jurors, showing it to them and saying they have two decisions they can make when they go back to deliberate: life or death.

He asks jurors to show mercy - if not on Robinson, then on his family and friends who want him to live.

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Update - Tuesday, 10:00AM

Deputy District Attorney Kevin O'Connor begins his closing arguments.

He asks jurors, "If the murder of Chelsea Brooks is not worthy of the death penalty, then what is?"

O'Connor says the state has overwhelmingly shown jurors in the first phase of Robinson's trial that he hired two men to kill the pregnant teenager. What's more, he says the death was especially heinous and cruel.

Murder-for-hire is a capital offense in the state of Kansas, as is the killing of a witness in an upcoming criminal case. O'Connor says Robinson had Brooks killed specifically to avoid facing child rape charges.

O'Connor tells jurors he doesn't want them to make their decision based on emotions they have about this case. He wants them to impose the death penalty based on their cold, hard review of the facts of the case as they apply to the law at hand.

O'Connor tells jurors: "Mercy? You can grant him mercy if you want. You can grant him the same mercy he granted Chelsea Brooks."

A few minutes later, he says: "This is about punishment. This is not about sending a message to others out there. This is about the appropriate punishment for the murder of Chelsea Brooks."

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Update - Tuesday, 9:30AM

Jury instructions are underway. Judge Ben Burgess is explaining to jurors what they can and cannot consider during their deliberations.

When jury instructions end, prosecutors and defense attorneys will begin their closing arguments. Each side has been given 30 minutes to present their final statements to jurors.

Prosecutors will ask jurors to recommend the death penalty; defense attorneys will ask jurors to impose life in prison without the possibility of parole.

When closing arguments end, the jury will begin its delilberations.

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Elgin Robinson could learn his fate today.

One week after jurors found him guilty of capital murder for the 2006 killing of pregnant 14-year-old Chelsea Brooks, those same jurors will decide whether he lives or dies for the crime.

Defense attorneys spent the last two days calling witnesses on Robinson's behalf. They included a former teacher, a mentor at Wichita's Boys & Girls Club, Robinson's parents and grandmother. The witnesses each explained to jurors factors in Robinson's life that were beyond his control, such as his broken and sometimes violent home. Robinson's parents showed little outward emotion as they asked jurors to please spare their son's life.

Robinson did not take the stand in his own defense during this phase of his trial.

Co-defendant Everett Gentry is serving life with a chance for parole after 25 years. Because he was a minor when the crime occurred, he could not be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole. In exchange for his confession and testimony against Theodore Burnett and Elgin Robinson, he was given a chance for parole at 25 years instead of the 40 years. Prosecutors say it's unlikely he'll get out in 25 years.

Theodore Burnett was convicted at trial this spring, based largely on the testimony of Everett Gentry. Though a jury found him guilty in an unanimous verdict, that same jury was unable to agree unanimously on the death penalty. Burnett is now serving life without parole.

In Kansas, jurors must weigh aggravating factors against mitigating factors when deciding on the death penalty.

Aggravating factors are reasons for the death penalty, such as the motive or heinousness of the crime. In Robinson's case, murder-for-hire and murder to prevent a witness from testifying in an upcoming trial are reasons for capital murder.

Mitigating factors are reasons for life in prison. Mitigating factors often speak to the defendant's character and past. A defendant can also ask for the jury to show mercy.

If the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors, and jurors agree unanimously on death, then that will be the sentence given.

However, if the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors, or if only one juror dissents and refuses to agree to the death penalty, then the sentence is automatically commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

There are only about a dozen people awaiting a death sentence in Kansas, all men. The death penalty was re-instated in 1994, but nobody has been executed since then. Every death sentence is automatically subject to a review by the Kansas Supreme Court. The appeals process can take years.

The method of execution in Kansas is lethal injection. There is no "Death Row" in Kansas. Instead, prisoners are held in administrative segregation in El Dorado. Administrative segregation is essentially solitary confinement. Inmates in this area are allowed one hour outside of their cell to exercise or shower. During this time, they are kept alone and away from all other inmates. The other 23 hours are spent in a cell with no contact.

The state's death chamber is located at the Lansing Correctional Facility. It has never been used. The last execution in Kansas was carried out by hanging in 1965.


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