Jury selection in Robbins murder trial to begin next week

Keith L. Robbins

JAMESTOWN — The trial of a Jamestown man, who allegedly shot and killed his estranged wife last year that sparked a countywide manhunt, is expected to begin next week.

According to court documents, jury selection in the second-degree murder trial of Keith L. Robbins will start Tuesday in Chautauqua County Court in Mayville.

The trial, which will be heard in front of County Court Judge David Foley, had been set to begin in June. However, the date was effectively pushed back after Public Defender Ned Barone filed notice indicating the possibility of introducing mental health evidence at trial.

Barone filed the notice in April, more than five months after Robbins, 36, of Jamestown, allegedly killed his estranged wife, 36-year-old Shari Robbins, in a parking lot on Prospect Street in the city. Robbins was taken into custody on Nov. 15, five days after the shooting following a countywide manhunt.

Barone argued at a hearing in May that potentially providing mental health evidence is well within Robbins’ constitutional rights. The public defender also cited his office’s heavy caseload and limited staff when responding to criticism by District Attorney Patrick Swanson that the notice was beyond the 30 days stipulated by state law following an arraignment.

Swanson argued the notice would delay proceedings and also noted that it would be tough for an expert to get a “quality evaluation” of Robbins six months after the shooting.

“My main concern is the notice wasn’t specific enough for us to hire whatever kind of expert we need to evaluate the defendant,” Swanson said in May. “Whenever you file a defense … and claim an emotional disturbance or some other malady prevents you from formulating an intent, you have to file a notice that is specific.”

After hearing arguments from Barone and Swanson, Foley allowed the notice to be entered.

Robbins was arraigned in November on charges of second-degree murder and injuring a police animal. During the six-hour standoff on Todd Avenue in Jamestown, Robbins allegedly stabbed a K-9 with the Jamestown Police Department.

The injury to K-9 Mitchell prompted state Sen. Cathy Young to introduce legislation that would make it a felony to injure a police dog or horse. The bill passed the Senate earlier this year but failed to get a vote in the state Assembly.