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Pre-trial detainee has waited over six years to access footage he says proves his innocence

By Jody DiPerna and Matt Glover

In a pre-trial hearing today, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Newman told Common Pleas Court Judge Randal Todd that the D.A.’s office personally delivered eight discs containing video surveillance footage from McDonald’s and GetGo cameras to Todd Robinson’s attorneys on June 6, 2022. 

Wilkinsburg Police Officer Christopher Duncan shot Robinson in a McDonald’s parking lot after he was cited with a parking ticket. After Sgt. Matthew Morrison and Duncan let Robinson go, a background check showed Robinson had failed to return to a halfway house which was a condition of his parole. The officers went searching for Robinson. After some time, they found him leaving the McDonald’s on Penn Avenue.  

Read our award-winning investigation into Robinson’s case here: ‘It started with a parking ticket and ended with a police shooting. Four years later, the defendant has yet to go to trial’

In interviews with the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, Robinson maintains that the surveillance footage from the McDonald’s and GetGo parking lots will show that he tried to flee police after he was shot, not before.

Yet, he has been held as a pre-trial detainee in the Allegheny County Jail for more than six years, and in that time, his attorneys have yet to show Robinson the surveillance footage he has been asking for since 2017. He has been given access to Allegheny County Detective James Grill’s recap of the surveillance footage with time stamped notes. 

Robinson also said in an interview that he has never seen the original police incident reports and, in order to assist in his own defense, he needs to see those reports. 

Todd said the trial should be scheduled in about a month, and the district attorney’s office must provide Robinson’s attorneys, Lisle Weaver and Thomas Farrell, with all of the discovery materials, including video footage and the incident reports within a week. 

The district attorney’s office said they have turned over this evidence at least twice in the past, but will again make a full copy all of the materials and send them to defense counsel.  

Todd told the defense council to “make arrangements so [Robinson] can see the video.” 

Robinson filed a motion to proceed pro se, which means continue his trial as his own attorney. Todd denied that motion, explaining that the court would need to appoint co-counsel for Robinson. If he were to proceed without an attorney, he would be at a disadvantage and could not expect help or guidance from the court, Todd said.

“If you don’t raise legal issues properly, then they’re waived permanently,” Todd said. “I can’t give you a break if you don’t understand the rules.”