A D.C. Superior Court judge yesterday rejected an attempt to have former local television newscaster Max Robinson testify at the murder trial of a Washington man accused of killing an apparent friend of Robinson's.
The ruling by Judge Sylvia Bacon came during the third trial of William C. Rindgo, who is charged with the murder, rape and robbery of 24-year-old Barbara I. Meyersburg, a Pan American World Airways ticket clerk. Rindgo's first trial ended in a hung jury, and he was convicted in a second trial in 1977 of the charges. The D.C. Court of Appeals, however, overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial.
Rindgo's current trial is nearing the end of the first week, with his attorneys about to begin his defense. On Monday, Rindgo's attorneys said they had supoenaed Robinson, now an ABC television network anchorman in Chicago, in an attempt to help prove Rindgo's innocence. Rindgo's attorneys, Dennis O'Keefe and William T. Shannon, both argued that Meyersburg had apparently visited Robinson the night of the murder, which cast doubt, they said, on the government's version of events.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David W. Stanley had earlier told the jury that Rindgo unexpectedly encountered Meyersbury outside the WTOP studio late on the night of Jan. 7 , 1974, where he then allegedly strangled, robbed and raped her. However, when the jury was out of the courtroom, Rindgo's attorneys told the judge that at "some point in the evening Meyersburg had consentual sexual relations with some other person" who had not identified himself.
Bacon, however, ruled late yesterday afternoon, just before the defense arguments were set to begin, that to determine waht Meyersburg's intentions were the night she was murdered "would lead a finder of fact into the realm of speculation." Testimony by other witnesses who apparently were willing to say that Meyersburg and Robinson knew each other was not relevant, the judge said.
After Bacon's ruling, prosecutor Stanley asked that the subpoena for Robinson be quashed, but before the judge could act, Rindgo's attorneys withdrew it. An attorney representing Robinson in court yesterday and Robinson, reached in Chicago, declined comment.
Meanwhile, the government's star witness, Edward C. Burke, told the jury yesterday that he saw Rindgo attack Meyersburg in the parking lot next to the television studio which is located at 40th and Brandywine streets NW.
"She was struggling," Burke said. "Then there were no more screams. She was moving no more. He told me he was trying to stop her from screaming. She was out-out."
Burke, who said he and Rindgo had planned a gas station robbery that night, said he immediately left the scene. Police found Meyersburg's body the next day near some bushes. She had been beaten, raped and strangled, according to evidence introduced at the trial.