Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

LA Forensics: The Sandwich Shop Murders

A Disheartening Result

The jury was unable to come to a decision about whether Robinson should get the death penalty, so it deadlocked. Judge Coen declared a mistrial and determined the need to empanel a second jury for the sentencing phase. He set a hearing date of June 11 for Barshop to state his intention of proceeding to a retrial. It was not an easy decision to make. Essentially, Barshop would have to retry the entire case in front of the new jury. In the alternative, Robinson would automatically receive life without the possibility of parole. Barshop knew that the families were counting on him to get the most exacting penalty possible.

He was depressed over the prospect of putting the families through this process again and delaying justice. "I'm very disappointed," he said to reporters. "I thought death was the appropriate decision." He learned that several jurors had decided that while they agreed with the death penalty, which made them eligible to sit on this jury, they could not actually make that decision about someone. Another juror said if he'd seen a videotape of the murder, he would have voted for death, but without that kind of proof, he couldn't. Some jurors even had lingering doubts about Robinson's guilt, which seemed surprising in light of the physical evidence. Still, he did not fit the stereotype of a vicious killer who was a danger to society and he had no criminal background.

Brian Berry & James White
Brian Berry & James White

Barshop decided to go for it. In 1994, he ran the same trial all over again to convince the penalty phase jury that Robinson deserved death. He hammered home how callous, arrogant, and vicious Robinson had been toward the two boys on the night of the robbery. He described again how James White had been on his knees, probably begging for his life after having witnessed his best friend shot in the face, and the convicted defendant had shot him straight through the head from above.

Robinson once again took the stand to claim he had not shot the two men; he'd merely been in the store.

The jury heard a great deal of testimony about the impact of the murders on friends and family some 37 trial pages worth of material. This trial was only slightly shorter than the original one had been. But it had a different outcome.

On June 18, taking less than a day, the second jury decided on two death sentences for the defendant. He showed no reaction, just as he'd stayed calm in the face of heated words from Brian Berry's mother and sister.

At the trial's conclusion, Robinson was transported to San Quentin, where he set about preparing his appeal.

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