Jury deadlocks in sentencing man convicted of killing Griffith woman
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent October 11, 2013 5:02PM
Robert Lewis III, was sentenced Monday to life in prison for killing a Griffith woman. | Provided
Updated: November 13, 2013 6:07AM
CROWN POINT — The same Lake Superior Court jury that convicted a Gary man of felony murder in a beating and strangulation killing of a Griffith woman deadlocked when deliberating on the possibility of life without parole.
Jurors on Thursday night convicted Robert Lewis III, 40, of murder, murder in perpetration of criminal deviate conduct, criminal deviate conduct and resisting law enforcement in the 2011 murder of Jennifer Kocsis, 37, of Griffith.
On Friday morning, one of the jurors sent a note to the judge saying he was pressured into convicting Lewis and that it was not his verdict. Each of the 12 jurors had indicated Thursday that the verdict was guilty when asked individually by Judge Diane Ross Boswell, who entered judgment of conviction on the charges.
On Friday, after deputy prosecutor Catherine Breitweiser-Hurst and defense attorney T. Edward Page argued their positions in the penalty phase, the jury forewoman sent a note to Boswell that they were unable to agree unanimously on whether the state had proven the aggravating circumstance beyond a reasonable doubt — that Lewis intentionally killed Kocsis while committing or attempting to commit criminal deviate conduct.
In the judge’s instructions to the jury, the panel had to make that finding before proceeding to the second step of balancing the aggravating circumstance against any mitigating evidence. Mitigating factors include the defendant’s age, education, character, environment, mental state, life or background.
Because of the deadlock, Boswell dismissed the jury and scheduled a sentencing hearing for Nov. 25. Life without parole is still a possible sentence, as is a term of years. Murder and felony murder are punishable by 45 to 65 years.
Page argued that Lewis, who had crudely propositioned women at Pepe’s in Griffith, where Kocsis had gone to sing karaoke, may have misread her willingness to give him a ride home and made a sexual advance on her that was rebuffed. Page argued that Lewis’ DNA could have gotten in Kocsis’ anal area if he grabbed Kocsis’ crotch. When she rejected Lewis, he became angry and a struggle ensued. Lewis, who was intoxicated, became enraged and got carried away, Page said.
Breitweiser-Hurst said the DNA evidence showed Lewis’ DNA on an anal swab collected during Kocsis’ autopsy and dismissed Page’s “crotch-grab” theory as preposterous.