The First District Court of Appeal has upheld the judgement and sentence of a Pensacola man convicted last year of murdering the mother of his child.
Henry Steiger, 54, was found guilty of second-degree murder by an Escambia County jury in June 2019 after prosecutors successfully argued he killed Cassandra Robinson after the birthday party for their 1-year-old daughter, Evelynn.
Steiger was sentenced to life in prison by Circuit Judge Jeffrey Burns.
Steiger appealed the court’s decision, claiming his defense attorney, Paul J. Hamlin, rendered ineffective counsel and the court erred by allowing jurors to view three autopsy photos.
On Wednesday, State Attorney Bill Eddins announced the ruling by the First District Court of Appeal upholding the trial court’s initial determination.
Robinson was reported missing June 8, 2018, and her body was found July 11, 2018, in a 55-gallon drum inside a storage trailer owned by Steiger.
During trial, neither the prosecution nor the defense denied Steiger moved the body into the drum. Steiger testified in court that he did not kill Robinson and that she had accidentally taken her own life.
The jury, however, sided with prosecutors, who argued during trial that Steiger killed Robinson after she sent him text messages saying she planned to leave him and take their baby with her.
In his appeal, Steiger contended his defense attorney wronged him in two main ways.
First, he argued the attorney should not have allowed the jury to hear a recorded police interview without redacting references to an unrelated case. Steiger was taken into custody for violating parole shortly after Robinson’s body was discovered in connection to a 2014 federal wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud case.
Second, Steiger argued the defense attorney should have objected at multiple instances during trial when Steiger would have preferred him to do so.
Another point of contention referenced in Steiger’s appeal pertained to three autopsy photographs admitted as evidence during his trial. The appeal claimed the three photos “were not relevant, but if relevant, they were too inflammatory,” according to court documents.
Ultimately, the First District Court of Appeal did not agree with any of Steiger’s arguments.
The court did not find the claims regarding Steiger’s defense counsel met the necessary criteria for a successful appeal, as they were not “fundamental errors.”
“A fundamental error is something so egregious that it requires immediate reversal, and the defense counsel does not have to object to preserve the error,” explained Assistant State Attorney John Molchan.
Additionally, the First District Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that the three autopsy photos admitted as evidence in Steiger’s trial were relevant “and outweighed and prejudicial effect,” according to court documents.
Colin Warren-Hicks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8680.