Steven Walter Robinson
, better known as the Fullerton AMC slasher, was improperly convicted and sentenced to 22 years to life in prison for attempting to murder fellow theatergoers at a 2008 screening of the horror film The Signal
That's the recent ruling of a Santa Ana-based California Court of Appeal, which determined that Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard W. Stanford Jr. had presided over an unfair trial that blocked jurors from considering a potentially valid defense:
Robinson, 22 when the crimes occurred, had been high on hallucinogenic mushrooms and impaired by whiskey and may have been mentally impaired when he ambushed two people with a hammer and a knife in the midst of a violent scene during the movie.
"Substantial evidence suggested the defendant may not have formed the intent to kill, premeditated or deliberated, due to a mental disorder," wrote Justice Raymond Ikola
for a three-justice panel that included Eileen Moore
and Richard Aronson
. "The defendant testified he hallucinated during the movie, feeling a 'sense of evil' coming from the movie screen. And the psychologist found the defendant was 'very mentally impaired.' His 'longstanding psychiatric symptoms' included 'psychotic thoughts (hearing voices, delusions)' and 'a history of depression with schizoid and paranoid features going well back into early adolescence.'"
According to Ikola, "This testimony, if believed by the jury, sufficiently warranted the requested mental-disorder instruction" sought during the 2009 trial by Robinson's defense lawyer, public defender Erica Gambale. "A reasonable probability exists that the defendant would have obtained a more favorable result had the court instructed the jury how to consider the mental-disorder evidence."
Prosecutor Andrew Katz
had argued that Robinson faked being high as an excuse for his conduct and was a freak obsessed with serial killers, death and torture.
Robinson, whose victims were severely wounded and still suffer emotional distress, fled the theater and was eventually captured by police in Nevada.
to see our original article of the trial.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly