Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Killing in Central Park: The Preppy Murder Case

Chambers Cops a Plea

However, unknown to the jury, who was sequestered in another room, a deal was being worked out behind the scenes. Litman and Fairstein were talking about a possible plea bargain. Pivotal in the talks was the outcome of pending charges for the burglaries committed by Chambers in 1986. Those felony charges combined with a possible conviction on manslaughter could put his client behind bars for a long, long time. While the jury was completing its ninth day of deliberations, word leaked out in the courtroom that a deal had been struck.

Robert & Phyllis Chambers (AllanTannenbaum/TIMEPIX)
Robert & Phyllis Chambers
Chambers, as it is said, copped a plea. He would plead guilty to first-degree manslaughter and faced a sentence of five to 15. He had to serve a minimum of five years. In addition, he had to plead guilty to one count of burglary for his thefts in 1986. The significance of that plea was important, since it made Chambers a two-time loser. If he should be convicted of a third felony sometime in the future, it would mean life in prison. The news swept through the courthouse like a tornado.

While the jury was out of the room, the plea in court began. Chambers stood with his attorney to hear Judge Bell ask the questions.

"Is it true, Mr. Chambers, that on August 26, 1986, you intended to cause serious physical injury to Jennifer Levin and thereby causing her death?" he said.

"Looking back on everything, I'd have to say yes, but in my heart I didn't mean for anything to happen," Chambers said as he stared at the floor. Fairstein interjected.

"Your honor we're asking about his mind and his hands, not his heart!" she said.

The judge repeated the question and this time, Chambers replied: "Yes, your honor." But he shook his head back and forth as if to indicate "no."

"Is there any question in your mind about causing her death?"

"There is no question, your honor," Chambers replied. He also had to plead out to the burglary charge. Sentencing was set for April 15. At 5:40 p.m., the jury was brought back into the courtroom and for the first time, they learned that a deal had been made. Judge Bell gave them the news.

"This matter has been disposed of. Thank you very much for your services," he said to the jury. Some of the panel began to cry as they marched out of the box. The media crush was everywhere, trying to interview anyone who would talk. A few minutes later, outside the court, Ellen Levin spoke to the TV cameras.

Ellen Levin Leaving Court (AP)
Ellen Levin Leaving
Court (AP)
"I don't think we could have withstood another trial," explaining her fears about a possible hung jury. "We could not have sustained that strain and tension for another year and a half." It was what a lot of people were thinking. For better or worse, it was over.


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