Hillsborough County holds first jury trial for accused murderer Erin Robinson

Murder defendant Erin Robinson turned down a plea deal offer that would have sent him to prison for 15 years. Now, his trial will be the first with a jury since COVID-19 caused the courts to shut down.

Hillsborough County Judge Samantha Ward questioned Robinson on his decision, but he was resolute.

Now he will take his chances with a jury.

Last time Robinson was in a courtroom, he was parting ways with his attorney after a streak of bad luck that included losing his job and his home.

Topping his list of troubles is a first-degree murder charge that could send him away for decades if convicted.

Prosecutors say Robinson beat a man to death with a rock after he believed the victim was flirting with his girlfriend back in August 2014.

Robinson claimed it was self-defense.

His trial will be one of the first cases tried during a pandemic. Judge Ward said the logistics are still being ironed out.

"My courtroom, I've been looking at it for a couple of days now. It's not going to be able to seat 14. It can comfortably seat eight for a smaller trial so we may be forced to stay in Courtroom 1," explained Ward.

It's been seven months since the Hillsborough County Courthouse has hosted a criminal jury trial.

Now that the courthouse is getting ready to re-open, court staff has been busy preparing every courtroom, making sure social distancing guidelines are in place.

Judge Ward promised the lawyers a run-through before the trial, "to figure out what mechanically it will look like."

Everyone, including jurors, will have to wear face coverings and have their temperature checked every day. The trial is set for October 19, 2020.