death penalty news—-TEXAS

June 23


Killer gets chance at life during hearing

2 portraits of Mark Allen Robertson, a convicted killer who is getting a
new sentencing hearing after 18 years on death row, were sketched out for
Dallas jurors on Monday.

Robertson, 41, was convicted in the 1989 robbery and murder of 81-year-old
Edna Brau in her Preston Hollow home. He is also serving 2 life sentences
for killing her grandson, Sean Hill, and a convenience store clerk,
Jeffrey Saunders.

His attorney, Robbie McClung, told jurors they would hear not just the
"bare facts. You're going to hear the whole story." That's the story of an
abused and neglected boy with a drug problem who wound up in the juvenile
justice system before committing murder at 19.

"You're going to listen to the cries of a child," McClung promised, as 2
spectators in the courtroom wiped away tears.

Edna Brau's son, John Brau, watched stoically. He said he won't comment
until after the punishment trial is completed.

Robertson's execution has been scheduled 5 times since his conviction in

He was granted a new punishment hearing when a federal appellate court
ruled that instructions given to his original jury were confusing. The
instructions involved the jury's consideration of mitigating factors,
including a defendant's abusive childhood.

The defense team trying to prevent a new death sentence for Robertson may
have a difficult task.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Kirlin said that after Robertson shot
Brau between the eyes as she slept in front of her television, he drove
her Cadillac to Las Vegas, where he was arrested outside a casino.

When the police found the stolen car, the prosecutor said, Robertson told
officers, "Surely I'm on America's Most Wanted by now."

Robertson confessed to the killings. Kirlin said detectives described
Robertson as "unbothered, calloused."

The prosecutor went on to tell jurors about Robertson's criminal history,
which included auto theft as a juvenile and armed robbery at 19.

While incarcerated at various times, he tried to escape and once started a
fire in his cell.

But McClung, the defense attorney, said that since Robertson's arrival on
death row, he has spent his time "studying poetry, art, learning foreign
languages, counseling others" and has not committed any acts of violence.

She said Robertson found a "parental figure" in the form of the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice and that he deserves to spend his life in
prison, not die by lethal injection.

Jury selection took eight weeks. Prosecutors expect the punishment phase
to last into next week.

(source: Dallas Morning News)