Prosecutors question if Maurice Robinson could lie to change mental health tests

Published 12:05 am Thursday, February 25, 2016

By Shavonne Walker

A psychologist testifying in the murder trial of 37-year-old Maurice Robinson said he did not have the intellectual ability to plan or even think rationally because of a number of developmental and behavioral disorders.

Prosecutors disagree with the doctor’s theory, but instead question whether it’s possible Robinson, who could face life in prison if convicted, could lie or exaggerate his mental condition during an evaluation.

Robinson is on trial for his role in the murder of Z&H Mart store owner Hecham Abualeinan.

The store owner, 59, was shot and killed subsequent to a robbery at the Mooresville Road store Dec. 10, 2012. Co-defendant Christopher Watson testified last week that he owed Robinson money for crack cocaine Robinson gave him without charging. Watson, 26, admitted to the court he donned a Halloween mask and walked into the store, robbed it and shot Abualeinan once.

Watson also said if it wasn’t for Robinson, he would never have committed such a crime. He pleaded guilty in 2015 to first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon. He agreed to testify against Robinson.

Kevin Canzator, Robinson’s cousin by marriage, also testified against Robinson. Canzator also accepted a plea agreement in exchange for testimony against Robinson. He will be released from prison in about 14 years.

Prosecutors said Robinson manipulated Canzator into helping to rob not only Z&H Mart, but the Neighborhood Market on West Horah Street.

In one of the robberies, Canzator pretended to be a customer while Watson walked in behind and proceeded to rob the store. Watson robbed the West Horah Street store twice and the Mooresville store once.

In each robbery, Watson used a handgun provided to him by Robinson and did as Robinson told him to do, prosecutors have said.

Ginger Calloway, a Raleigh psychologist, told the court Wednesday morning that Robinson suffered from intellectual disability, formally called mental retardation, as well as schizophrenia, personality disorder, impulse control disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and alcohol and marijuana dependency.

She went on to say these disorders would’ve affected Robinson’s ability to plan the crimes.

Jurors listened as Calloway went through a number of reports and notes from her April 2014 interview and testing of Robinson.

Calloway confirmed it was possible for a person to affect the outcome of a mental competency test if the person lied or exaggerated details about a mental disorder. It was a question posed by Assistant District Attorney Tim Gould.

Calloway countered by saying being untruthful could affect the testing, but she looks at the whole history of a person’s mental status.

She said Robinson was evaluated first at age 5 and later around 8, 11 and 15 years old. Calloway said each time Robinson was tested, officials discovered at least one or more of the disorders he had.

She said Robinson was in and out of mental facilities including Broughton psychiatric hospital and Daymark Recovery Services, as well as Piedmont Behavioral Health, now Cardinal Innovations.

Calloway said Robinson tried multiple times to kill himself including lying down in the roadway when he was 14. She said he also exhibited self-injurious behavior that included cutting himself.

She also said his reading and math level is that of a kindergartner, or at best second-grade.

Prosecutors say Robinson was the mastermind behind the three robberies and was able to manipulate both Canzator and Watson into committing the crimes.

Several witnesses including Robinson’s then-girlfriend Ashley Bentley and both Canzator and Watson said Robinson was the one pulling the strings.

According to prosecutors and witness testimony, Robinson gave Watson the signal to go into the Z&H Mart to rob the store. Robinson also provided the gun used in each robbery. He borrowed the gun from a friend and he divided the stolen money after each robbery.

The trial resumes today at 9:30 a.m. in superior court.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.