John Robinson murder conviction overturned; new trial ordered
John Douglas Robinson is seen outside the courthouse in Woodstock, Ont. in this undated image taken from video.
Ryan Flanagan, CTV Kitchener
Published Thursday, August 10, 2017 3:23PM EDT
A jury was wrong to convict a Woodstock man of first-degree murder, Ontario’s top court has ruled.
The Ontario Court of Appeal has overturned John Robinson’s conviction on first-degree murder and ordered a new trial to be held on a charge of second-degree murder.
Robinson was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to life in prison in connection with the 2008 death of Clifford Fair.
Court heard that the two men were drinking with Robinson’s partner – who also happened to be an ex-girlfriend of Fair – and a fight ensued when Robinson wanted Fair to leave his apartment.
Robinson testified that he taped a towel to a hollow aluminum pipe, planning to use the weapon to “shoo” Fair from the apartment. He hit Fair twice with the pipe. It is believed that Fair died shortly after those blows.
Robinson and his girlfriend then buried Fair’s body in their backyard. Some of his remains were found several weeks later, after Robinson told his ex-wife that he had killed Fair, while other remains weren’t found until a year after that.
During the trial, the Crown argued that Robinson knew hitting Fair with the pipe would likely kill him, while the defence claimed there was no proof Robinson planned to kill Fair.
The jury was swayed by the Crown’s argument. The appeal court was less convinced.
“A reasonable jury could not convict (Robinson) of a planned and deliberate murder on this evidence,” Justice David H. Doherty wrote in his ruling.
“The conviction on the charge of first degree murder is unreasonable and must be set aside.”
Doherty found that whatever planning Robinson did failed to meet the legal standard for first-degree murder, which includes developing a “calculated scheme” to kill somebody and weighing the pros and cons of that scheme.
Robinson testified that two minutes elapsed between him leaving his living room and returning with the pipe.
“The timeframe described in the evidence offers little support for the Crown’s claim that the murder was planned and deliberate,” Doherty wrote.
Doherty further based his decision on Robinson’s actions in the moments immediately after Fair died, during which time he started to cry and told his girlfriend that he hadn’t meant to hurt or kill Fair.
No dates have been set for Robinson’s second trial.