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Jurors go home without verdict in child killing

TAMPA — It's no mystery what killed 22-month-old Chavon Robinson last year. An autopsy showed a blow to the head caused his brain to fill up with blood, killing the toddler within minutes.

His body was riddled with other injuries, including a shattered collarbone, broken ribs, bruises and ruptured organs.

But it will take a jury of six men and six women to determine if Chavon's father, Chauncey Robinson, was the one who killed him. They deliberated for 90 minutes Wednesday before deciding to resume today.

They have to consider what happened when Chavon was in his father's care last year, from Feb. 1 until his death on Feb. 13.

Robinson told Tampa police that he found Chavon, who had asthma, having a seizure and choking in bed at his N Lincoln Avenue apartment. He and then-girlfriend, Tina Tillman, said Robinson placed the infant on the floor and performed CPR. Tillman called 911, then phoned Chavon's mother, Shantil Galloway, when he didn't respond.

Galloway told jurors Tuesday that when she saw Robinson in the hospital moments later, he said, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry." When she asked why, she said Robinson told her "because he was in my care."

Prosecutors say Robinson, 27, is guilty of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated child abuse, all of which happened after he picked up Chavon from Galloway. The plan was for them to spend the weekend together and return Chavon to his mother.

But Robinson called that Sunday and asked to keep Chavon longer, and Galloway agreed. As a doctor's appointment approached, she asked Robinson to bring Chavon back. Galloway told jurors that two days before the Feb. 14 appointment, Robinson refused, telling her: "Your son is a p---- and needs to be toughened up."

For prosecutors, this showed Robinson was too rough on Chavon.

"This is a 22-month-old baby we're talking about," said assistant Hillsborough County state attorney Kimberly Hindman. "This is a window of truth into how he felt about Chavon. He hit him, and didn't like that he didn't respond back."

The thrust of Robinson's defense was to attack his former girlfriend, Tillman. Like Robinson, she has a lengthy criminal record. Robinson was arrested at least 15 times before Chavon's death, state records show. He served two months in prison in 2006 for cocaine trafficking. Tillman, 26, has more than a dozen misdemeanor arrests, including three petty thefts.

While Robinson could have killed Chavon that day, Tillman could have as well, said defense attorney Christopher Watson.

Watson argued Wednesday that police too quickly ruled out Tillman as a suspect. Only Tillman, Watson said, had a motive.

The boy was the lone reason Shantil Galloway was in Robinson's life, and Tillman didn't like her boyfriend to be distracted. With Chavon dead, "Shantil will not be in her life anymore," Watson told jurors.

Watson said she had enough time alone with the baby the day he died to kill him. She had a history of lying, including last year to a judge, Watson said, and couldn't be trusted.

"It's not my job to prove that Tina Tillman did it," Watson told jurors. "But if you have concerns that she did, doesn't that raise reasonable doubt?"

Prosecutor Hindman told jurors to disregard the attack on Tillman.

"We didn't pick who the witnesses are," Hindman said. "Chauncey Robinson chose to get involved with Tina Tillman."

At most, Tillman had only 15 minutes alone with Chavon, Hindman said, and no history of violence.

"Only Chauncey Robinson cared for Chavon in the daytime hours," Hindman told jurors. "Only the defendant cried to Shantil that he was sorry because he died in his care.

"This is the time for justice for Chauncey Robinson," Hindman said.

After the jury went home, Galloway said she hoped they'd come back and decide that Robinson is guilty. She said she plans to place roses on Chavon's grave today, after the verdict. She said she wants to deliver a message to her dead son.

"I want to tell him justice was served," Galloway said.

Jurors go home without verdict in child killing 12/09/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 10, 2009 12:19am]

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