ELYRIA — The trial of Martin Robinson has been anything but ordinary, but it seemed many in the courtroom were not prepared for how unusual closing arguments in the case were Wednesday with an outburst from the defendant, another from a person in the gallery and an attorney singing to the jury.
Robinson, 40, of Sheffield Lake, faces multiple charges of attempted murder, felonious assault and other charges in connection with a shootout that occurred at his home May 31 while members of the U.S. Marshals Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force and the Lorain County SWAT team tried to serve him with an arrest warrant out of Cuyahoga County. During the shootout, prosecutors have said Robinson shot Amherst police officer and SWAT team member Eugene “J.R.” Ptacek, “nearly killing him.”
In addition to shooting Ptacek, Robinson is charged with attempted murder or felonious assault for endangering the 10 other officers who were involved in the shootout.
When Reid Yoder, Robinson’s defense attorney, began to address the jury for the final time, he took an unconventional approach. For nearly one minute, Yoder sang Buffalo Springfield’s “For What it’s Worth.”
“There’s something happening here, but what it is isn’t exactly clear,” Yoder sang. “There’s a man with a gun over there, telling me I’ve got to beware. It time to stop. Children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.”
Yoder then went on to explain some of the history of the song.
“That song was written by Buffalo Springfield in the fall of 1966 in regards to a police force usurping its powers,” he said. “… That song is still applicable today, because in 2018, in the summer, that’s exactly what happened to Martin Robinson.”
Yoder said the U.S. Marshals could have served the warrant to Robinson since they had much of the same equipment a SWAT team would have — assault rifles, bulletproof vests and helmets. Instead, they waited for hours around Robinson’s home until the SWAT team arrived, which Yoder referred to as a paramilitary organization complete with a mine-resistant assault-protected vehicle that was driven onto Robinson’s front lawn.
Yoder questioned why the SWAT team has so much high-tech equipment, but it didn’t have dashboard cameras or body cameras on the officers, asking “what are they trying to hide?”
The defense also attacked the credibility of many of the state’s witnesses, many of whom were members of law enforcement present during the standoff. Yoder referred to them as “trained witnesses” who were biased and have something to gain in the case.
Yoder also said there was no testimony that Robinson was the one who shot Ptacek.
Testimony has said that a 20-gauge rifle shotgun slug was removed from Ptacek by surgeons at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland. A Sears and Roebuck 20-gauge pump-action shotgun was found inside Robinson’s home along with three spent shotgun shell casings, testimony said.
“What happened on May 31 was a tragedy,” Yoder said. “It was a tragedy for the Ptacek family. It was a tragedy for the Lorain County Sheriff’s Department. It was a tragedy to Martin Robinson.
“This man, at one time, was normal. He was a good man who went to work every day. He did what he was supposed to do.”
Yoder then once again told the account of Robinson being assaulted by Cleveland police officers while he was working as a corrections officer at a state prison facility. The assault left Robinson with major brain injuries as well as physical injuries. He was unable to return to work, sued the Cleveland Police Department and eventually was awarded a $900,000 settlement.
Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo, though, said the incident wasn’t a tragedy but a “constellation of 21 different criminal violations committed by” Robinson.
“What that really was, by the defense, was a cry for sympathy because something went wrong with Martin on July 7, 2009,” Cillo said. “Let’s think about that. What did Martin do on May 31, 2018? He did the very same thing to Officer Ptacek that he has whined and cried about this whole trial happening to him. He said he was working at that prison when he was viciously attacked by four people and it caused him those injuries.”
Cillo said that Ptacek was doing his job the day he was shot as he was trying to serve an arrest warrant on Robinson.
Testimony said Ptacek was the officer trying to breach the front door of Robinson’s home, after the defendant had failed to comply with orders to come out of the house for hours. Ptacek was trying to put a robot inside the home to get a better look inside. When the door opened, Ptacek said he tried to get out of the doorway, heard a loud sound and felt something strike him.
Cillo said Robinson was waiting for the door to open with the shotgun, which is known as a hunting firearm.
“He is using the couch as cover. He’s lying in wait,” Cillo said. “He is the hunter, and Ptacek is the prey.”
While Assistant County Prosecutor Laura Dezort was outlining the charges against Robinson in relation to each of the alleged victims, Robinson interrupted her and yelled out, “In my own house?”
Judge Chris Cook stopped the proceedings and turned to Robinson and told him he didn’t want to have to remove him from the courtroom, but he must remain quiet.
While Cook was speaking, Maiya McCoy, Robinson’s girlfriend, spoke out repeatedly from the gallery telling Robinson to keep quiet and “We know they’re lying. Let them lie.”
The jury will begin deliberation on the case this morning.
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