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  1. #1

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    Oct 2010
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    5,954

    Robert Fisher - Pennsylvania Death Row


    Robert Fisher


    Facts of the Crime:

    Sentenced to death on May 3, 1989 in Montgomery County for killing Linda Rowden on July 10, 1980 because she gave information to police that might have implicated him in the murder of a drug witness.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Oct 2010
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    5,954
    November 16, 2009

    Death row killer wants new trial


    NORRISTOWN — A Norristown man, the only person in Pennsylvania to be sentenced to death three times, by 36 jurors, for the same crime, claims his conviction for the 1980 killing of a Collegeville woman was based on inaccurate scientific evidence.

    Robert Fisher, currently housed at the State Correctional Facility at Graterford, has asked a judge to grant him a new trial, claiming the testimony of an FBI agent at his 1991 trial was inaccurate.

    That FBI agent, John Riley, testified that he analyzed the lead from bullet fragments found in the body of Linda Rowden and bullets taken from a box of ammunition found at an apartment where Fisher was living and concluded that the bullets and bullet fragments could have come from the same box of bullets, according to court documents.

    However, Fisher, through his lawyers, now claims that an April letter from FBI officials claims that, "Science does not support the statement that bullets, shot pellets or bullet fragments can be linked to a particular box of bullets."

    Defense lawyer Stuart B. Lev implied that prosecutors relied heavily on Riley's original testimony to win a conviction of Fisher. Lev implied that Riley's original testimony was misleading and unreliable.

    "The error arising from the admission and use of scientifically unreliable bullet lead testimony was not harmless. His testimony was anything but harmless," Lev wrote in a petition seeking a new trial for Fisher.

    Lev argued a new trial should be granted based on newly discovered evidence.

    Prosecutors are fighting the request, arguing Fisher previously raised similar allegations and that the latest allegations are "meritless." Prosecutors claim the comparative bullet lead analysis evidence was considered reliable and admissible.

    Assistant District Attorney Robert M. Falin said the recent FBI letter did not discredit Riley's testimony.

    "Agent Riley testified at great length on direct and cross-examination about comparative bullet lead analysis, and he fairly explained its limitations," Falin wrote in court papers. "That lengthy testimony was not misleading or improper."

    Furthermore, Falin maintained, Fisher's claim of "new evidence" would not have changed the outcome of the trial nor was the FBI agent's testimony the most damning evidence. Falin argued there was overwhelming evidence of Fisher's guilt, including eyewitness testimony that Fisher was the person who shot and killed the 26-year-old Rowden and Fisher's own confession to a confidante.

    President Judge Richard J. Hodgson is expected to consider Fisher's request in December.

    Fisher did raise a similar argument several years ago, claiming that a 2003 scientific study called into question the reliability of the testimony of an FBI ballistics expert at his trial. However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied that appeal.

    "Clearly, (Fisher) is unable to establish that such evidence would likely compel a different verdict," state Supreme Court Justice Max Baer wrote in an opinion dated March 30, 2005.

    Baer added that Fisher's argument that the FBI agent's testimony was critical to his conviction, "vastly overstates its importance at trial."

    Fisher, who is represented by lawyers of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, has been tried and convicted twice and sentenced to death three times for killing Rowden, his ex-girlfriend.

    Rowden was killed July 10, 1980, as she drove her car along DeKalb Street in Norristown. Fisher, a back seat passenger in the car, leaned forward and shot Rowden in the neck.

    Prosecutors contend Fisher killed Rowden to prevent her from giving information to police that could link Fisher to the 1980 murder of Nigel Anderson, a witness who had been scheduled to testify in a federal heroin case.

    Fisher, who has categorically denied any involvement in Rowden's murder, wasn't apprehended until the fall of 1987 in New York City.

    Fisher was first convicted of Rowden's murder in September 1988 and was sentenced to death. To win that conviction, prosecutors relied on Fisher's previous conviction in federal court of violating Nigel Anderson's civil rights.

    In 1990, the state Supreme Court overturned the county murder conviction after a federal judge overturned Fisher's federal civil rights conviction.

    Fisher was then retried for Rowden's murder in August 1991, convicted and sentenced to death a second time.

    However, in June 1996, the Supreme Court, while upholding the murder conviction, ruled Fisher should receive a new penalty hearing because jurors at his 1991 trial were improperly allowed to hear victim impact testimony from Rowden's mother.

    After a new penalty hearing in June 1997, Fisher was sentenced to death a third time.

    http://pottsmerc.com/articles/2009/1...v0000006814628

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