MANNHEIM, Germany — An Army trial judge on Thursday convicted Sgt. Everett Robinson of the slaying of his longtime girlfriend.

Robinson, a Mannheim-based truck driver, was sentenced to 18 years in prison, reduced in rank to E-1 and dishonorably discharged. He avoided a much more severe sentence after Judge (Col.) Stephen Henley found Robinson guilty of the lesser charge, rather than premeditated murder, which carries a possible term of life in prison without possibility of parole.

Henley took about an hour and 45 minutes before reaching the verdict at mid-afternoon Thursday. After Henley announced the conviction, Robinson kissed his wife, Cynthia, then hugged his parents, Cora and Cecil Robinson.

The verdict came on the third day of testimony at Taylor Barracks in Mannheim. Robinson — assigned to the 69th Transportation Company, 28th Transportation Battalion of the 21st Theatre Support Command — was court-martialed for killing Pearline McKinney Oct. 5 at their apartment near Mannheim. Robinson testified Wednesday that he had killed McKinney — the married soldier’s live-in girlfriend — in self-defense after she assaulted him, then tried to stab him.

At the end of three days of testimony, prosecution and defense attorneys returned to their original positions in the final arguments.

Prosecutor (Maj.) Richard DiMeglio emphasized that McKinney was dead, and that Robinson meant to kill her. Defense attorneys, however, portrayed McKinney as a volatile woman and chronic drinker who had once attacked her husband with an aluminum baseball bat.

On the final day of testimony, attorney Capt. Kwasi Hawks added a final wrinkle — that it was likely McKinney died not because Robinson choked her, but from complications arising from overexertion during her long physical assault on Robinson.

A relatively high blood-alcohol content, combined with a heart condition common to chronic alcoholics, could have triggered heart failure during her fatal struggle with Robinson, said Dr. Robert Goldberg, a Marietta, Ga.-based forensics expert witness.

However, DiMeglio and Capt. Jennifer Santiago targeted Goldberg’s credibility through his unusual background. That background includes a medical degree from a now-defunct school in the Dominican Republic, and what Santiago portrayed as misrepresentations of his qualifications on his Web site. In his summation, DiMeglio pointed out that though Goldberg is both a medical and doctor and an attorney, he is not licensed in the United States to practice either.

To counteract Goldberg’s theory, prosecution put back on the stand Dr. (Lt. Col.) Kathleen Ingwersen, who testified about McKinney’s autopsy early in the trial. She found Goldberg’s citation of medical literature accurate, “but not as it applies to this case,” said Ingwersen, Armed Forces Regional Medical Examiner for Europe.

Allegations about McKinney’s alcohol use were a “moot point” because there was not indication that McKinney’s heart stopped suddenly as Goldberg theorized, she said.

Further, under questioning by Santiago, McKinney said blood patterns and a lack of wounds to her hands and feet contradicted Robinson’s assertions that she had hit and kicked him during a prolonged fight, said Ingwersen.

Moreover, she rated as scientifically impossible Robinson’s testimony that he choked McKinney with one hand while controlling the knife in her other hand while she lay atop him unlikely. Without a wall or floor anchoring her head, McKinney’s neck would have been too flexible for Robinson to have exerted sufficient force to choke her with one hand, Ingwersen said.

In turn, Hawks challenged Ingwersen’s lack of experience in dealing with bloodstain analysis.

DiMeglio used his closing summation to construct his own theory, a theory of Robinson as a man slow to anger, but seething with disappointment at a night gone wrong.

Instead of the perfect night on the town he’d planned for days, Robinson lost control several times, including when a slot machine didn’t pay off, and when he received poor service, DiMeglio said.

Then, he got the “cold shoulder” from McKinney. “This is his big night, and she’s not playing along,” the prosecutor said.

Summing up, DiMeglio said the prosecution had to prove not that Robinson planned the murder in advance, but that he made the decision before McKinney died.

Then, referring to the length of time experts testified it took him to choke Robinson to death, DiMeglio said that Robinson had 50 or 60 seconds to decide not to kill Pearl McKinney,” the time to coolly reflect on what he was doing.

“Yet he did not let go.”

Prosecution attorney Capt. Teresa Phelps asked for life imprisonment.

But defense attorney Capt. Dolly Gray asked Henley for leniency, citing the testimony of his former supervisors and the overall positive testimony about his character.

Despite his being on trial for killing McKinney, “no one said he was a bad person,” Gray said. “No one said anything bad about this man.”

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