LOCKPORT – Kelvin W. Robinson of Niagara Falls has pleaded guilty for the second time to murdering his wife in 2004.
Robinson, whose first guilty plea was disallowed on a legal technicality discovered nine years after the fact, today was promised the minimum sentence for second-degree murder – 15 years to life in prison.
State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. will make that official Feb. 7.
Robinson’s appeal thus made him eligible for parole three years sooner than he would have been under the original sentence of 18 years to life.
Robinson, 57, stabbed his wife Coleen, 38, to death March 14, 2004, in their home on Niagara Avenue in the Falls. They had been married for five years.
Robinson was choked up as he answered Kloch’s yes-or-no questions. When asked if he killed his wife, Robinson swallowed and said in a thick voice, “Yes, I did.”
Erie County Assistant District Attorney Gary W. Hackbush, who served as special prosecutor in the case along with his colleague James W. Mansour II, said the plea had been cleared with Coleen Robinson’s mother, Arlene Brown. “She is satisfied with this disposition,” Hackbush said.
“I was glad,” Brown confirmed after court. “I don’t think this [second plea] should have happened in the first place.”
As for the shorter minimum sentence, Brown said, “Fifteen years to life doesn’t mean he’ll get out in 15 years. I can live with the 15 years.”
“We were prepared to go to trial,” said Assistant Public Defender Michele G. Bergevin, who represented Robinson along with colleague Alfonso M. Bax.
Bergevin said Robinson wanted to plead guilty. “He made the decision. It was his choice,” Bergevin said.
Kloch said, “I am glad for Coleen’s family that this brings this matter to a close.”
Brown pointed out that Coleen was stabbed in the back and neck. “It wasn’t any accident,” she said.
Robinson had to plead guilty this time to intentional murder. In the 2004 plea, he pleaded guilty under a section of law that covered killing with “depraved indifference to human life.”
In 2006, a decision by the state Court of Appeals changed the interpretation of that section and mentioned that a one-on-one stabbing would almost never qualify as depraved indifference.
On June 14, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Rochester decided it could apply that ruling retroactively to Robinson’s 2004 plea because his first unsuccessful appeal was pending at the time of the 2006 ruling by the Court of Appeals.
The Appellate Division also found that Robinson’s answers to the questions posed in 2004 by then-Niagara County Judge Peter L. Broderick Sr. contradicted the claim of depraved indifference, even though Broderick ruled otherwise.
Robinson had failed in two other appeals before winning on the third try. Attorney Brian Shiffrin of Rochester made the winning argument on Robinson’s behalf.
A special prosecutor had to be appointed when the case was returned to Niagara County, because Niagara County District Attorney Michael J. Violante was the county public defender in 2004 and worked out Robinson’s original plea deal.