ELYRIA — The jury trial of a man accused of shooting a police officer during a May standoff in Sheffield Lake began Wednesday.
Martin Robinson, 40, of Sheffield Lake, faces 22 felony counts for allegedly shooting and seriously wounding Amherst police Officer Eugene Ptacek during the standoff at Robinson’s home.
Robinson was indicted in December, after he was released from the custody of Cuyahoga County Jail, where he was being held on charges of carrying concealed weapons, improperly handling firearms in a vehicle driving under the influence, according to court records. The Cuyahoga County charges are still pending.
The Lorain County case has been moving quickly, as Robinson has refused to waive his right to a speedy trial, which means the trial must begin within 90 days of the defendant’s arrest, since he is incarcerated on the charges.
Jury selection for the trial took place Wednesday afternoon, with a jury being selected. Opening statements will take place Thursday morning.
Prior to jury selection, the court ruled on several pending motions filed on Robinson’s behalf by his defense attorneys. It also covered other issues that have arisen with the case.
One of the issues has been Robinson’s legal representation, which is a hybrid of a court-appointed attorney and counsel retained by the defendant’s family.
“It’s a little bit of a strange scenario we have here with the defendant initially seeking court-appointed counsel despite the fact there was some question of his financial resources and the fact he refused to fill out a financial affidavit,” Judge Chris Cook said. “Nevertheless, this court felt compelled, based upon the law and in order to protect the defendant’s interests, to appoint attorney (John) Toth, and he has been involved in this case since day one.
Robinson repeatedly has tried to have Toth removed from the case, but Cook has declined to remove the attorney from the case. Robinson’s retained counsel, Reid Yoder, told the court he would be representing Robinson on his own and asked Toth to stand down as counsel.
Cook said Toth will remain as standby counsel. On Feb. 7, when Yoder made his first appearance in court as Robinson’s attorney, he told the court he probably would likely make a motion to withdraw as counsel due to only having 13 days to prepare for trial. On Wednesday, Yoder told the court he and his client had settled their differences and he was “proud to represent” Robinson.
Yoder once again filed a motion to continue the trial date in order to have more time to prepare a proper defense for his client. Cook denied the motion, stating that he might be a little more inclined to consider pushing the trial back some if Robinson would waive his right to a speedy trial.
Yoder then made a motion to have the case dismissed due to his client’s speedy trial rights being violated. The attorney argued that Robinson has been incarcerated on the charges since June 2018.
Prosecutors, however, argued that Robinson wasn’t arrested or indicted on the Lorain County charges until December, when he was released from the custody of Cuyahoga County into the custody of Lorain County.
Cook denied the motion to dismiss.
Robinson also has declined to change out of his Lorain County Jail jumpsuit into civilian clothes during the trial. Defendants are given the opportunity to wear street clothes during a trial in an attempt to not prejudice the jury.
“I have advised Mr. Robinson to wear civilian clothes,” Yoder said. “Obviously, I think that’s more appropriate for him. He has indicated to me that this is who he is and this is his situation currently and he’s not going to hide behind it.”
The court also granted a motion to allow Robinson’s service dog to sit with him during the trial. However, prior to jury selection, the court learned that the dog would not be in the courtroom during the trial “due to health reasons.”
Opening statements are set to begin at 9 a.m.
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