Crime

Jailhouse notes out, defendant’s letter in at Orchard Street killings trial

Anthony Robins Jr. listens to a judge during a hearing earlier this year in Ada County District Court. A judge ruled last week that he will be tried together with co-defendant John C. Douglas.
Anthony Robins Jr. listens to a judge during a hearing earlier this year in Ada County District Court. A judge ruled last week that he will be tried together with co-defendant John C. Douglas. kjones@idahostatesman.com

Ada County prosecutors are barred from using information gleaned from handwritten notes seized from murder suspect Anthony Robins Jr. during his trial on aiding and abetting first-degree murder, a judge has ruled.

Ada County District Court Judge Sam Hoagland said in a decision that prosecutors should not have had access to four pages of notes Robins, 34, compiled while sifting through 6,000 pages of documents pertaining to the case.

At the same time, Hoagland denied a defense motion to split Robins’ trial from the trial of co-defendant John C. Douglas, 45, accused of murdering Boise residents Travontae Calloway, 27, and Elliott Bailey, 28, over drugs.

A defense attorney argued that Robins, from Fremont, Calif., would be harmed by the introduction at trial of a letter written by Douglas, from Reading, Pa. Douglas reportedly admitted shooting Calloway and Bailey at Calloway’s apartment at 2178 S. Orchard St. Calloway’s girlfriend, Jeanette Juraska, was also injured in the May 9, 2014, attack.

In the letter, which was written to Robins but found by another inmate at the Ada County Jail and turned over to authorities, Douglas said there was “no need” for both of them to go down together for the slayings. Douglas offered to blame co-defendant Anton Raider for arranging the killings, which prosecutors say Robins did.

Robins’ notes were seized during a search of his cell in May. Prosecutors believed Robins and Douglas were passing notes back and forth, using another inmate to deliver the notes. The two men were not supposed to have contact with each other, and prosecutors asked jail officials to search all three cells to see if any notes could be located.

Sheriff’s deputies found four pages of points Robins wanted to bring up with his lead attorney, Brian McMonagle, when the Philadelphia lawyer came to Boise. Neither the deputies nor a supervisor knew whether the notes were what prosecutors were seeking, so they scanned them and sent them to the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office.

Shelly Akamatsu, the deputy prosecutor handling the case, argued the notes were in a property bin that inmates know can be searched at any time and that they were properly booked into evidence.

The notes were not marked “confidential” or “attorney-client privilege,” which would have alerted jail officials and prosecutors that the writings were sensitive.

Hoagland did not fault the seizure of the notes during a lawful search, but concluded Robins attempted to maintain their confidentiality by placing them in his personal property bin.

In his ruling, Hoagland said the notes cannot be admitted as evidence, and anything gleaned from them cannot be used at trial, unless prosecutors are able to show they obtained the information independently. Akamatsu in a previous court filing said there was nothing in the notes that prosecutors didn’t already know.

As far as Douglas’ letter, Hoagland ruled it could be introduced against both defendants.

“Thus, it does not matter whether the trials are joint or separate,” Hoagland wrote.

Robins and Douglas are scheduled to go to trial Jan. 19. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell

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