A Hinds County judge today dismissed all charges against two of three Jackson Police Department officers charged with the second-degree murder of George Robinson in January 2019. Robinson, 62, died days after JPD officers beat him in the Washington Addition neighborhood of the capital city.
The sudden dismissal of the state’s case against the police officers came prior to the defense’s rebuttal of witness and expert testimony.
“No proof was presented that (Lincoln Lampley and Desmond Barney) were conspiring to commit an unlawful act against Mr. Robinson,” asserted Hinds County Judge Faye Peterson, the former district attorney who also declined to pursue charges of manslaughter against the two officers.
Lampley and Barney encountered Robinson on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, while searching for the killers of Pastor Anthony Longino earlier that morning. Three witnesses present at the trial testified that one of the officers body-slammed Robinson while removing him from his car. The officers released Robinson after a brief detention—and he fell unconscious at his hotel room hours later. An ambulance brought him to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where he died of a subdural hemorrhage.
Peterson explained that the State of Mississippi had failed to prove that the officers on trial committed any criminal actions during Robinson’s arrest. Peterson dismissed the case against both officers with prejudice, closing the door on future criminal proceedings against Lampley and Barney for the homicide of Robinson. Anthony Fox, the third officer charged with Robinson’s murder, will be tried at a later date before a different judge.
Witnesses described officers beating Robinson, including with a flashlight, after pulling him out of his vehicle during a “field release arrest.” The Clarion-Ledger’s Justin Vicory reported that Connie Bolton, a resident and witness to Robinson’s brief arrest, testified that one of the officers who arrested Robinson stomped on him while he was lying on the ground.
The Hinds County coroner determined that Robinson’s death was a homicide caused by blunt-force trauma to the head. During the brief trial, WLBT reported that Dr. Mark LeVaughn, Mississippi’s chief medical officer, testified that “this 62-year-old male named George Robinson died as a result of multiple blunt injuries to his head … evidenced by facial abrasions, scalp contusion, brain contusion, hematoma and brain swelling.”
DA Owens: ‘Significant Evidence’ Against Remaining Defendant
“I’m surprised … we thought the evidence was sufficient. Three eyewitnesses identified the (officers) on the scene,” Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens II explained at a press event after the trial. Owens acknowledged Judge Peterson’s decision and suggested the State would move on to the case against Fox.
Owens carefully implied that the proceedings may have lent credence to the upcoming case against Fox without mentioning the officer by name.
“In the trial, a defendant’s name was mentioned consistently. It was not a defendant that was on trial today,” Owens said. Additionally, the district attorney asserted that Peterson, the Hinds DA from 2001 to 2007, ruled against the inclusion of “evidence relevant to acknowledging the role the officers played.”
“I’m prohibited from speaking about a trial before it starts, but there is significant evidence that came out in this trial that pointed to another individual on the scene,” Owens said.
The Jackson Free Press previously reported that Barney and Lampley were present for two of Officer Anthony Veasey’s three shootings, including his 2017 shooting of Mikelle Bracey in Presidential Hills, which was not fatal. The City of Jackson initially refused to identify Barney and Lampley following Robinson’s death, as it followed a beating rather than a shooting. Robinson’s death came after months of discussion and controversy over a spate of officer-involved shootings in Jackson, where the capital city traditionally had not released the names of the involved officers.
JPD’s internal-affairs division exonerated Barney and Lampley as well as Veasey in the earlier shootings, as the Jackson Free Press reported based on documents it obtained from the City of Jackson that, for the first time, revealed several officers’ involvement in past shooting incidents. It would not be until August 2020 that a grand jury would indict Barney, Lampley, and Fox.
‘They Left Me With a Body’
Bettersten Wade, Robinson’s sister who has acted as an advocate for his case in the aftermath of his death, spoke to the media alongside Owens.
“The three officers on trial, we know my brother lost his life with them,” Wade said. “They drove up, they pulled him out of the car. He had just had a stroke … maybe he was slow getting out of the car.
“They know they murdered my brother,” Wade continued, growing emotional beneath the gaze of the TV cameras. “He lost his life on my birthday. They left me with a brother that’s in the ground … they left me with a body.”
Editor Donna Ladd contributed to this story.