By Ed Brock
After an emotional outburst by his son, a witness against him, a Jonesboro man accused of murder decided to accept a sentence of life without parole.
One of 41-year-old Rodger Alexander Robinson's twin sons by the woman he is accused of shooting testified Friday at Robinson's trial, Clayton County Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney John Turner said. The young man's mother, Denna Flemming, survived the attack but her sister Deborah Denise Bryant was fatally shot during the same incident, leading to the murder charge.
When a defense attorney showed Robinson's son a picture of the crime scene he began crying so badly that the trial went into a recess for dinner, Turner said. After the recess Robinson offered to plead out.
"He indicated that he would take life without parole which is what we offered him in the beginning," Turner said. "He finally came to Jesus and we got it resolved."
The family was amenable to the plea, Turner said. After the plea was entered the judge asked the family if they had something to say. Robinson's other son began making a statement and also started crying, at which point Robinson also cried.
"It's the most emotion I've ever seen in a trial," Turner said.
Bill West, Robinson's attorney, said he had no words to express how his client felt and why he decided to accept the life sentence.
"I suppose he didn't want to put his children through any more of that emotional distress," West said.
West said he couldn't comment about what changed in his client's demeanor regarding concern for his two sons between the time he shot Flemming in front of them and Friday's outburst.
On April 2, 1999 Robinson entered a Jonesboro apartment where Flemming, his common-law wife, lived with their children. He shot Bryant as she slept downstairs and then went upstairs and shot Flemming twice. Flemming was able to drive herself to the hospital.
Turner said the couple had a history of domestic violence that began shortly after their relationship began in 1984 when the two were living in Florida. At the time Robinson was 21 and Flemming was 14, and by 1985 they had twin boys together.
In 1993 they moved to Clayton County and by 1995 Clayton County police made their first report of domestic violence between the couple.
About two weeks before the incident in which Bryant was killed Robinson was arrested for supposedly threatening Flemming with a baseball bat. And the night before the shooting he broke into Flemming's apartment and choked her with an extension cord, Turner said.