[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----IDAHO
rhalperi at smu.edu
Tue Aug 30 22:56:34 CDT 2011
Judge rejects Idaho woman's death penalty appeal
A federal judge has dismissed the appeal of the only woman facing the death
penalty in Idaho but cleared Robin Row to ask a higher court to consider a
handful of issues in the case.
Row, 53, was convicted of the 1992 killing of her husband and 2 children by
setting their Boise duplex on fire. At her sentencing the following year, a
judge said she was a pathological liar and "the embodiment of the cold-blooded,
Row's appeals bounced through the court system over the next several years as
she said there were multiple problems with her case, including a contention
that secret tape recordings of phone calls shouldn't have been allowed into
evidence and a claim that she had brain damage. Row contended that if enough
testimony about the condition had been presented in court, the case would
likely have ended differently.
But in a 67-page ruling handed down Monday, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill
rejected Row's claims with prejudice, meaning she can't file them again. Still,
he gave her a certificate of appealability on some of the claims, essentially
clearing the way for Row to ask the 9th Circuit Court to overturn his decision.
Those claims include Row's argument that her attorneys were ineffective at her
sentencing hearing and that she was forced to wait too long to be arraigned on
the murder charges. She also claimed misconduct by the prosecution.
Row can ask the 9th Circuit to reconsider the issues Winmill dismissed as well,
but only if an appellate court first gives her permission.
Row's attorney, Teresa Hampton with Federal Defender Services of Idaho, said
the case would be appealed. "We'll certainly take the available legal options
for Miss Row," Hampton said.
According to court records, Robin Row and her husband, Randy Row, had a
"mutually abusive" relationship. And Robin Row eventually moved out to live
with a friend, Joan McHugh. Robin Row's 2 children from a previous marriage,
10-year-old Joshua Cornellier and 8-year-old Tabitha Cornellier, stayed with
On Feb. 10, 1992, Robin Row woke McHugh up at about 3 a.m., saying she had a
feeling that something was wrong with her house.
The 2 drove over to the duplex, which was in flames and surrounded by emergency
vehicles. Paramedics told Robin Row that her children and husband had been
Fire investigators later concluded that someone had intentionally set the fire,
feeding the flames with a hot-burning petroleum product. The home's circuit
breaker for the smoke detector was also shut off, and the furnace fan was set
to run continuously, feeding the flames and circulating the smoke throughout
the house. All three victims died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Days later detectives learned that Row had lost other children under suspicious
circumstances years earlier: A baby who investigators said died of sudden
infant death syndrome and a son who was killed in a 1980 California house fire
that investigators ruled accidental. At that point, according to court records,
police began to focus their investigation on Row.
Row was arrested on an unrelated grand theft charge, accused of stealing from
her employer, and she stayed in jail while that case was moving forward because
she couldn't post bond.
She began to call McHugh from jail, according to court records. Detectives
persuaded McHugh to record the phone calls without telling Row. In her appeals,
Row said the secret recordings violated her right to have an attorney present
and should have been barred from the court case.
Winmill disagreed with the legal argument and added that Row did not prove that
any error connected to the calls had a substantial and injurious effect on the
verdict of the murder trial.
There was plenty of powerful circumstantial evidence, Winmill noted, including
evidence that she'd taken out life insurance policies worth more than $275,000
on her husband and kids a few weeks before the fire. A witness said he saw a
car matching Row's car near her home the night of the fire, and McHugh said
she'd heard someone taking a shower and using a washing machine in the early
(source: Associated Press)
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