A local judge is considering whether a West Mobile woman who pleaded guilty to intentionally shooting her estranged husband in the chest will face any time in state prison for the crime.
Last week, Circuit Judge Jay York held a sentencing hearing for 69-year-old Melodie Robinson, who previously admitted to shooting her husband, retired neurologist Kent Robinson, during a confrontation on March 29, 2017. She then turned the same gun on herself.
While both survived, state prosecutors maintain the shooting was an attempted murder/suicide in the early stages of a contentious and lucrative divorce filed after Melodie Robinson discovered her husband had been having an extramarital affair.
Assistant District Attorney Keith Blackwood said Melodie Robinson wrote several “suicide” letters to friends and loved ones — including one to her husband’s mistress — before traveling to the home of Kent Robinson’s elderly parents, where he had been staying during the divorce.
A paraplegic who is confined to a wheelchair, Kent Robinson was in the bed and immobilized when his wife arrived that day in 2017. In a recorded statement, he said she knew where he’d be at the time and parked along the road before entering a side door connected to his bedroom.
Both sides agree there was a confrontation about a “moral inventory” Melodie Robinson found from an Alcoholics Anonymous program her husband was in during the early 2000s. He says it contained a list of people he’d wrong, but his wife contended it was a detailed list of affairs.
At some point during a verbal argument, Melodie Robinson produced a handgun and fired two shots at her husband, striking him once above the heart. She then exited the side door and turned the gun on herself, according to Blackwood’s statement in court.
Melodie Robinson turned herself into police custody at Mobile Metro Jail 19 days after the shooting, and records indicate she was released in less than an hour. She was indicted for burglary and attempted murder in 2018, which came with the possibility of 20 years to life.
However, despite that, prosecutors agreed to allow Melodie Robinson to enter a blind plea to a single, first-degree assault charge in April — reducing her potential sentence by at least two decades. Blackwood said that decision was made at the request of Kent Robinson.
“That did take [his] wishes into account, and I want that to be absolutely clear so there isn’t any appearance that the state is recommending leniency or any kind of a break based on the defendant’s status or perceived status,” he added. “The state is well aware that justice is blind.”
During a sentencing hearing July 25, Blackwood recommended Melodie Robinson face two years in prison and eight years of probation — a sentence he acknowledged was “light” compared to others he’s seen for similar crimes locally.
Despite that, Melodie Robinson’s attorney, Dennis Knizley, and several of her friends and family members argued she should be able to avoid prison altogether.
At her sentencing hearing last week, Melodie Robinson also addressed the court to say she has “so much remorse for what happened,” adding that she’d loved her ex-husband and stood by him “through some very difficult times.” She also maintained she only went to his parents’ house with a loaded gun on March 29, 2017, to “say goodbye” to him.
“I take full responsibility for what I’ve done to Kent, and I’m really very sorry,” she said.
Similar sentiments were echoed by several of Melodie Robinson’s close friends who testified to the nature of the relationship between she and her now ex-husband — one they claimed was stressed for years by Kent Robinson’s abuse of prescription drugs and alcohol as well as multiple affairs.
Some of the witnesses included a former federal prosecutor, several local attorneys and some of Melodie Robinson’s former employers and coworkers from the University of South Alabama, where she spent years as the director of the alumni office for the College of Medicine.
All of those witnesses said she had a reputation as a kind, giving person and as a dedicated, dependable employee. However, some of her close friends testified that, after she found out about her husband’s affair in late 2016, she began to show signs of a mental breakdown.
A psychiatrist and psychologist who treated her before and after the shooting also testified that, during that time, Melodie Robinson was suffering from major depression, adjustment disorder, anxiety and some “psychosis” brought on by extreme marital distress and the news of the affair.
Knizley said his client was still able to tell the difference between right and wrong when she shot her husband, but after standing by him through previous affairs and substance abuse and tending to his needs as a handicapped individual for decades, another affair was just too much.
“She was going into her golden years, and he just crushed it. That factored so much into her ability to understand what she was doing that she spiraled downward to the point she was going to kill herself.” he said. “Anybody who is going to kill themselves is not in a clear state of mind.”
Blackwood argued that, even if everything said about Kent Robinson as a husband were true, it wouldn’t be an excuse to shoot him. He also noted the state “had come a long way” to show “leniency” and “mercy” in this case, adding that two years in state prison was a “just sentence.”
After hearing several hours of testimony, Judge York did not immediately hand down a sentence but instead opted to consider the matter further. At this point it’s unclear when an official sentence might be handed down, but Knizley told Lagniappe the court we be reconvening for it.
From the bench, York did ask prosecutors some questions about what remedies the state could offer that did not involve prison time. However, he also noted that rehabilitation — something Melodie Robinson’s supporters say she’s accomplished — isn’t the only reason people go to jail.
He also said the prison sentence has to consider what the proper punishment for the underlying offense is and how it can be used as a deterrent to future crimes.
“I heard Ms. Robinson say she accepts responsibility for what happened, but the question is, what about the consequences?” York asked. “Can you accept responsibility for something without accepting the consequences?”
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