Family forgives, judge rejects excuses from convicted Fresno County murderer

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A murder victim's family expressed hard feelings, but also forgiveness for the Fresno County man found guilty of murdering a man he called his friend.

"I do feel sorry for you, Brian," said Kathy Robinson, mother of victim Steven Robinson. "You had to be completely out of your mind and overcome by evil to do what you did to my son."

Fresno County sheriff's deputies found Robinson's body in a vineyard where Brian Smith had dragged him in July 2017.

Robinson got to a better place a lot sooner than his mother expected, but she's coming to grips with it a couple of years after his death.

"He's skateboarding the streets of gold with his angels and happier than any of us on this planet," said Kathy Robinson.

The victim's mother said she forgives the murderer, but she wants him to stay in prison where he'll never be able to hurt anyone again.

Her sister says Steven loved French toast, and not long before he died, they were making a whole loaf late at night when he told her he had a feeling Smith was out to get him.

"He said 'I think Brian's going to kill me', and I didn't believe him," said Diana Sons.

The two men were friends but had some beef over Robinson's girlfriend.

The victim's family may never get the real story about how it happened.

Smith claimed he was drunk and high on meth when he put a gun on top of his trunk.

He admitted to investigators he got in a fistfight with his friend, but won't admit to pulling the trigger.

"Every day I have to live with the accident that I did," said convicted murderer Brian Smith. "I did not mean to kill your boy at all. I'll put that on all my kids. I'll put that on everything I love."

Evidence shows the gun was right up against Robinson's forehead when Smith fired the deadly shot.

A jury convicted him of second-degree murder -- without premeditation -- but the judge wasn't buying the excuse.

"It was an accident, Your Honor, but I take full responsibility for it," he told Judge Alvin Harrell.

"Mr. Smith, in all due respect, I heard the evidence," Judge Harrell said. "I heard about the trajectory of the bullet and there is no way this was an accident."

Smith also claimed he was originally driving his friend to the hospital after the shooting in Parlier, but ended up dumping him instead in a vineyard about seven miles away near Mountain View and Bethel, near Kingsburg.

The judge sentenced Smith to life in prison, with no parole hearing for 40 years.
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