Psychiatrist: Robinson’s ability to make rational decisions is impaired

Published 12:10 am Friday, February 26, 2016

By Shavonne Walker and Amanda Raymond

During testimony on Thursday, a psychiatrist said Maurice Robinson’s ability to resist impulses and understand consequences, risks and signals from others is impaired.

Robinson, 37, is on trial for his involvement in the murder of Hecham Abualeinan, owner of Z&H Mart.

Abualeinan, 59, was shot and killed in 2012 during a robbery at his store.

Prosecutors said Robinson was the mastermind behind the robbery that led to Abualeinan’s death and manipulated Christopher Watson and Kevin Canzator into executing his plans.

Christopher Watson, 26, admitted to the court that he walked into the store wearing a Halloween mask, robbed it and shot Abulaleinan once. During his testimony last week, Watson said he owed Robinson money for crack cocaine that Robinson gave him for free.

Watson pleaded guilty in 2015 to first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon. He is serving life in prison without parole. Also during his testimony, Watson said if it wasn’t for Robinson, he would have never committed such a crime.

Kevin Canzator, Robinson’s cousin by marriage, also accepted a plea agreement in exchange for testifying against Robinson. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon. He will be released from prison in about 14 years.

Prosecutors said Robinson manipulated Canzator into helping with multiple robberies. Prosecutors said the three men also robbed Neighborhood Market on West Horah Street before the robbery at Z&H Mart.

During testimony, psychologist Ginger Calloway said that Robinson had a number of mental and behavioral disorders, including intellectual disability, formally called mental retardation, as well as schizophrenia, personality disorder, impulse control disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and alcohol and marijuana dependency.

Calloway said those disorders would have affected Robinson’s ability to plan the crimes.

On Thursday, psychiatrist George Corvin said he did not believe Robinson had schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Corvin evaluated Robinson in October of 2014 and January of 2015. During morning testimony, Corvin called Robinson a “disturbed individual” and said he may have exaggerated some of his symptoms.

During afternoon testimony, Corvin said it was clear that Robinson had faked or exaggerated symptoms, but that does not prove or disprove the fact that Robinson has a mental illness.

Corvin said he believed Robinson has an intellectual disability. He said there were repeated instances in which Robinson was diagnosed with the mental illness and that it is difficult, but not impossible, to fake a mental illness over a long period of time.

Corvin also said Robinson was admitted in the hospital for a brain aneurysm. While in the hospital, Corvin said Robinson had a decorticate posture, which is when a person is stiff with clenched fists to his or her chest and legs extended out. Corvin said sometimes the back will be arched. He said that was a sign of a brain injury.

Corvin said the brain injury coupled with the intellectual disabilities would make Robinson’s condition worse.

He said that his medical conclusion would be that Robinson’s personality did change after the brain injury, but it was difficult to determine exactly how it changed.

He said Robinson was impulsive, loud and irritable in a higher degree than what is seen with intellectual disabilities.

Corvin said Robinson’s ability to resist impulses and think through an act by evaluating consequences and risks were impaired, which would effect his ability to plan.

He also said that it is possible for a person with intellectual disabilities to commit and be found guilty of crimes.

During his testimony, Corvin confirmed that Robinson told him during an interview that he was a drug dealer and had sold $6,800 worth of crack cocaine to Christopher Watson, the man who robbed and shot store owner Abualeinan.

When questioned by assistant district attorney Tim Gould, Corvin said in its “purest form,” engaging in three robberies over a couple weeks may not suggest impulsivity. He also said acquiring a weapon could also suggest Robinson was not acting impulsively.

In regards to destroying the evidence, Corvin said that could demonstrate that Robinson knew the prior acts were wrong, but he may not have known the act was wrong while it was happening. He said having a mental illness did not mean that Robinson did not know he was doing something wrong.

When questioned again by defense attorney Jay Vinnoy, Corvin said people with mental disorders can have goal-directed actions, but Robinson’s planning capabilities were more childlike because of his intellectual disability.

After Corvin’s testimony, the defense brought Bill Dover to give his testimony. Dover is a private investigator at SPI, Incorporated in Salisbury. He was hired by the defense.

Dover measured the distance from the front door of the store where Abualeinan was killed to the first driveway on the road to the west of the store. Watson said that was where Kevin Canzator picked him up after the crime. Dover said the distance was 572 feet.

After a second measurement from the front of the store to the mailbox of the driveway, Dover said it was 2.25 feet farther than the first measurement.

Dover said he did not go through the tree line to get the measurement. Instead, he stayed on the pavement. He said he did not know that Watson said he ran through the tree line to get to Canzator’s car.

After the jury left the courtroom, Dover said he had been in communication with Ace Roberts, from whom Robinson said he got the gun. While talking to Roberts about testifying at the trial, Dover said Roberts told him that he did not give Robinson the gun and wanted to testify in court to “clear his name.”

Dover also said that Roberts said he did not know Robinson personally.

Dover served Roberts with the subpoena when he came to court on Monday, but Roberts was not able to testify. Since then, Dover said he has not been able to get back in contact with Roberts and Roberts has not shown up for court.

After calling the jury back in and then dismissing them, Judge Joe Crosswhite decided to hold judgment on whether the defense was allowed to let the jury hear statements Roberts made to law enforcement in order to allow more time for Roberts to be located and brought to court to testify.

The trial will resume Friday at 9:30 a.m.