Rock Hill death row inmate again appeals; TV documentary in works

ColumnistFebruary 2, 2013 

— Just when it seemed like James “Jimmy” Robertson finally might fade from public view, the 39-year-old murderer is again trying to avoid execution under the spotlight of TV cameras.

Robertson loves attention. Even after spending the last 14 years in prison for killing his parents with a baseball bat and claw hammer because he wanted their money.

For years, Robertson even sent holiday cards to the prosecutor, Tommy Pope, who sent him to death row in a trial televised on Court TV, which is now truTV.

Robertson likes people to have a good Christmas. Except his parents, who were slaughtered the week of Thanksgiving 1997.

Pope, the former solicitor for York County, and Kevin Brackett, the current prosecutor who worked with Pope on the 1999 trial, are among many being interviewed this weekend in Rock Hill for a Investigation Discovery documentary on Robertson and how the brutal killings of Terry and Earl Robertson shocked Rock Hill.

“Jimmy, he is still guilty,” Pope said last week.

“Guilty,” said Brackett.

These two prosecutors convinced a jury that Robertson was a master manipulator, a narcissist who wore socks on his hands as he swung his bat and claw hammer.

Robertson is known for maneuvering to try to hustle the legal system on the cusp of death, sneaking a cellphone into death row, and getting on online singles websites while on death row.

Once, Rock Hill’s most famous convicted killer had a buddy of his – the man in charge of the $2 million estate left when Terry and Earl Robertson were killed so brutally – buy a washer and dryer for death row. Robertson wanted to make sure that the clothes he and his fellow killers all wore around the death row lunch tables while discussing the countless pending appeals were impeccably clean.

Robertson also loves to have free lawyers, although he often blames them for being in prison. Sometimes he fires them.

Even if the lawyers worked on his behalf and were paid, and are still paid, by taxpayers. Since 1997, Robertson has had at least 11 court-appointed lawyers:

• Two for the trial

• Two for his appeal, both of whom Robertson fired

• Two for his post-conviction relief lawsuit, in which Robertson blamed his trial lawyers

• Three currently working his federal appeal for alleged wrongful incarceration

• Two working his latest attempt to blame his trial lawyers and post-conviction relief lawyers

Robertson was broke when he was convicted of killing his parents in an attempt to get their millions. His father, Earl, was a Springs textile executive.

After the killings that afternoon in November 1997, Robertson stole his parents’ credit cards. He wasn’t even out of York County when he stopped at the Peach Stand in Fort Mill to buy cigarettes with the stolen cards.

He then fled South Carolina for Philadelphia, where cops waiting for him to try to reach his brother at college grabbed him. The girlfriend with him, Meredith Moon, testified against Robertson at trial. Moon was released from prison a few years ago after a conviction for her role in the crime and subsequent flight.

The trial was famous for descriptions of the Robertson home, where blood was sprayed all over stairway walls and shower where the parents were slaughtered with repeat blows.

Just this week, the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office filed a motion with the state Supreme Court scoffing at Robertson’s latest claim.

In this one, Robertson claims that his 1999 trial lawyers and his post-conviction relief lawyers were unqualified to handle such a case or they just plain botched his defense.

Robertson now, apparently, does not want to die. That has not always been the case.

Robertson’s legal battle to avoid death has cost millions and a forest of trees for all the paperwork.

In 2000, just a year after he was convicted, Robertson wanted to drop all his appeals, saying he was ready to be executed. He fired lawyers, saying they were not helping him get to that point.

It took years of court hearings, but finally, the state Supreme Court set an execution date.

The, with just days left before a date with death in 2005, Robertson filed a civil lawsuit called a post-conviction relief action claiming his trial lawyers failed him.

Robertson lost that after days of hearings in court, with two veteran lawyers helping him. After more court wrangling, the execution was set for Nov. 19, 2010.

Again just days before his planned death, Robertson filed a federal habeas corpus lawsuit, claiming he is being held illegally. That suit, with three lawyers on Robertson’s side, remains in limbo because Robertson, using two other lawyers, also has asked the state Supreme Court to throw out his failed PCR efforts.

That’s why the state Attorney General’s Office again has had to file papers saying Robertson deserves no more hearings or lawsuits.

The AG’s office would only say Robertson’s claim now is in the hands of the Supreme Court, which will decide whether he gets a new PCR hearing. That could take months.

Legal experts have said the ultimate resolution of Robertson’s latest appeals, including the federal lawsuit, could take years.

It already has been 14 years since Robertson was convicted.

The lead lawyers for Robertson in his two current legal actions could not be reached for comment.

Robertson is unavailable for comment on the lawsuits, or the upcoming TV special that Discovery Channel producers said will air this spring. He can watch TV, but no interviews are allowed on death row.

The program will air on Investigation Discovery, a Discovery network channel. The station is not on basic cable but is available as Channel 153 on Comporium Communications digital variety package.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065 •  adys@heraldonline.com

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