Criminal courts

Man convicted in concrete-block attack on Miami-Dade detective

Michael Robertson took the witness stand this week. He swore he never smashed a concrete block over the head of Miami-Dade Detective Carlos Castillo.

But what of Robertson’s DNA and fingerprint found later in the man’s stolen police car?

“I don’t know what they have over there,” Robertson said, suggesting cops planted his DNA and fingerprints using some sort of new-fangled science to frame him. “They got some new type of technology, some type of sorcery…. They’re using these machines and techniques we don’t know about.”

Jurors weren’t buying his conspiracy theories.

Heeding the damming forensic evidence plus credible eyewitnesses placing Robertson at the scene and hurling the 30-pound block, jurors on Friday afternoon convicted Robertson of attempted murder and three other felonies.

Not that the final hours of the case didn’t provide tense moments: Jurors deliberated over eight hours in two days in what seemed an overwhelming case against Robertson.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ellen Sue Venzer immediately sentenced Robertson, 36, to three life prison terms plus 30 years. She scoffed at the notion his fingerprint was planted.

“As you dropped that block, as you ran over him, didn’t it occur to you that he, like you, was a father, a husband, a son?” Venzer asked Robertson. “Clearly it mattered not to you.”

Said Miami-Dade prosecutor Gail Levine: “This verdict was for the law enforcement community and Detective Castillo. This was the reflection of a thorough investigation by police to make sure that a very dangerous man can never hurt anyone again.”

The verdict concluded a nine-day trial marked by the particular brutal nature of the attack on Castillo, a member of Miami-Dade’s Robbery Intervention Detail Unit.

Miami-Dade prosecutors said Robertson ran away from Castillo after a traffic stop near Little Haiti in April 2010, then ran up to the roof of an apartment building and hurled the 30-pound block onto the detective’s head.

Robertson then leaped down, kicked Castillo’s bloodied body, stole the officer’s unmarked Dodge Charger and crushed his body under the tires. He ditched the car several blocks away.

Castillo suffered severe brain damage, internal injuries and 12 broken ribs. His injures were so horrific that officers who found him at first believed he had been shot.

During trial, prosecutor Rebecca DiMeglio called his recovery a “miracle.” Castillo lost his sense of smell in the attack, and the use of his right arm is limited.

“The hardest part of the trial for me was hearing the doctor’s testimony,” Castillo said after the verdict. “Listening to him speak got me light-headed.”

Robertson admitted he was the one who ran from Castillo after the traffic stop in the alleyway, but insisted he never attacked the longtime officer.

But several eyewitnesses placed Robertson at the scene, and one who knew the man said he saw him throw the block onto Castillo’s head. His girlfriend, who was handcuffed and remained at the scene, also screamed out, “I don’t know why he did it” when officers found Castillo’s body.

And Robertson’s DNA was found on a visor inside the stolen police car, and his fingerprint was discovered on the inside of the interior driver’s side door handle of the Charger.

Robertson claimed he was a youth church minister who ran only because he was scared of police with a history of brutality in the inner city.

His attorney, Charles White, suggested that eyewitnesses tailored their stories to fit the police’s theory, while ignoring other possible suspects.

Miami Herald writer Jonathan Simmons contributed to this report.

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