The man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend on Facebook Live was arraigned in Caddo District Court today, but it didn’t come without the drama law enforcement and the courts have come to expect from him, as he once again acted out in the courtroom and had to be physically subdued.
Johnathan Robinson is accused in the April 12, 2018 death of Rennita Williams as a horrified world watched him commit the crime and police stood helplessly outside trying to negotiate with him.
Today, Robinson’s newly-minted court-appointed attorneys learned first-hand what they could be dealing with for the foreseeable future and beyond.
After the 1st Degree murder indictment was read in court this afternoon, Robinson’s Baton Rouge attorney, John Magrisso, tried to enter a not-guilty plea, but could not be heard as a distraught Robinson loudly proclaimed, “I killed her.”
When Judge Ramona Emanuel and the deputies tried to quiet Robinson, he began to shove the deputies standing next to him, forcing other deputies to moved in and help. It took a total of eight deputies to tackle Robinson to the ground and a few minutes to subdue him.
People sitting on the front rows in the courtroom behind the rail were moved further back, and court resumed with Robinson sitting at the defense table sobbing.
Robinson’s attorney was then able to enter the not-guilty plea, which he also did after other indictments were read, including one charging him with seven counts of attempted 1st degree murder, after he shot and wounded one Shreveport Police officer, and shot at six others.
Originally, Robinson was charged with 2nd degree murder, but in June, a Caddo Parish grand jury bumped the charge up to 1st degree murder, prompting the Caddo District Attorney issued a “letter of intent to seek the death penalty.”
It was a game changer, because in Louisiana, when the death penalty is in play, death-penalty attorneys must handle the suspect’s defense. Up until then, Robinson had been represented by Kurt Goins of the Caddo Public Defender’s office.
When a case becomes a death penalty case, the Louisiana Public Defender Board state public defender board takes over from the parish board. The state board does not directly supply attorneys to represent defendants, but farms them out to one of three non-profits in south Louisiana that handle capital-offense trials.
The LPDB does not directly represent death penalty defendants, but is the umbrella that funds The Capital Defense Project of Southeast Louisiana, The Louisiana Capital Assistance Center and the Baton Rouge Capital Conflict Office – the three 501(c)(3) non-profit law firms that represent defendants facing the death penalty.
The state board said there was no money to take on Robinson’s case at the time, however. But put him on a waiting list of death-penalty defendants seeking representation.
This put the District Attorney’s office into the odd business of trying to help the Court find attorneys qualified to represent a client they were charged with prosecuting.
After being repeatedly told there were no death-penalty lawyers available, Emanuel issued an order asking the board provide a wide range of documents detailing funding death penalty cases, including the defendants represented, along with expenses related to their defense, along with attorneys, investigators, mental health specialists, expert witnesses and other miscellaneous expenses.
The Court was in the process of appointing a Special Master to go through all those records when, in early November, lawyers from the Baton Rouge Capital Conflict Office stepped up and enrolled.
Today, following the not-guilty pleas, Robinson’s attorneys filed several motions, which the Court will entertain on Feb. 6, 2018.