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JPD Officer’s Conviction in George Robinson Death Overturned

Side by Side photos of Anthony Fox's mugshot and George Robinson
Former Jackson Police Officer Anthony Fox, left, will be free after the Mississippi Court of Appeals overturned his 2022 conviction for the 2019 death of Jackson resident George Robinson, right. Photos courtesy Mississippi Department of Corrections / courtesy Kimberly Sweet

Former Jackson Police Officer Anthony Fox will walk free after the Mississippi Court of Appeals overturned his culpable negligence manslaughter conviction for the 2019 death of Jackson resident George Robinson.

After a jury convicted him in August 2022, Fox was set to spend five years in state prison. Robinson died two days after an encounter with Jackson police officers who were sweeping the Washington Addition in January 2019, looking for a suspect in a crime he had no relation to. Witnesses said they saw officers pull Robinson from his car and beat him.

Mississippi Court of Appeals Chief Judge Donna Barnes wrote the majority opinion in Tuesday’s 5-4 decision overturning Fox’s conviction. “Based on the credible evidence presented at trial, no evidence establishes that Fox acted in a grossly negligent manner or that the victim’s death from minor abrasions was reasonably foreseeable under the circumstances,” she wrote.

Judges Virginia Carlton, Anthony Lawrence III and Jim Greenlee concurred with Barnes. Judge Jack Wilson concurred in part and result without issuing a separate opinion. Judge John Emfinger wrote the dissenting opinion, joined by Judges Latrice Westbrook, Deborah McDonald and Neil McCarty.

Read the Mississippi Court of Appeals ruling reversing Anthony Fox’s manslaughter conviction.

The majority opinion held that the testimony of three medical professionals consulted during the trial was sufficient to render eyewitness testimony that Fox had “body-slammed” Robinson “completely impossible based on the medical evidence.”

“Medical testimony showed that Robinson suffered no injuries consistent with being thrown, slammed, or kicked,” Barnes wrote. “Even Dr. LeVaughn, the prosecution’s own expert, testified that he could not find evidence of any type of violent impact and that there was no evidence that Robinson was beaten, kicked, or body slammed. Rather, he found that Robinson suffered some sort of ‘impact’ that caused ‘abrasions’ but that it was a ‘minor type of injury.’”

Eye Witnesses Described Violent Attack

Drs. Timothy Usee and Jonathan Arden testified for the defense at Anthony Fox’s trial, arguing that the scope of George Robinson’s injuries was inconsistent with being slammed headfirst into the pavement.

“Frankly, a man of his size, I would expect fractures of his face, especially, given the size and the superficial location of the bones in that area,” Usee testified. “I would expect a lot more soft tissue injury than I’m seeing on the autopsy pictures and on the CT.”

The medical experts consulted also noted that Robinson had been taking Plavix and aspirin to treat his hypertension—prescription drugs that thin blood and can exacerbate bleeding.

The court also ruled that, even if Fox’s conviction had not been rendered an acquittal, it would have reversed it and ordered a new trial based on failure to properly instruct the jury. Judge Barnes concurred with the police officer’s defense that the jury should have been instructed to consider whether Robinson’s death was “the result of an accident or misfortune while Anthony Fox was engaged in a lawful act by lawful means, with usual and ordinary caution, and without unlawful intent,” and that if so, they must declare him innocent.

Emfinger, writing the dissent, argued that the majority opinion improperly discards the testimony of witnesses in favor of expert testimony.

“In our analysis, we must resist pitting one witness’s testimony against the testimony of another witness,” Emfinger wrote. “We cannot discard the testimony of an eyewitness because we find the expert medical testimony to be more credible.”

However, the dissenting judges agreed that “the jury was not properly instructed in several respects and (we) would reverse the conviction and remand the matter for a new trial with proper instructions.” No judge on the court would have allowed Fox’s conviction to stand.

The decision means that without the intervention of Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, there will be no further trials for Fox over the death of Robinson. Fitch has already expressed support for Fox’s acquittal.

AG Fitch: ‘Officer Fox Should Be Acquitted’

On Jan. 13, 2019, Anthony Fox and other Jackson Police SWAT officers were combing the Washington Addition neighborhood in search of a suspect in the killing of Pastor Anthony Longino. Court testimony states that police encountered neighbors asking George Robinson, then in his car, for change to buy snacks from a neighbor.

“Fox testified that he approached the vehicle because he believed that he had witnessed a hand-to-hand drug sale between Robinson and the woman,” Barnes wrote.

Ronnie Arnold and Connie Bolton, two of Robinson’s neighbors, testified that they saw Fox grab Robinson and throw him to the ground. Both stated that Robinson’s head hit the ground in the altercation.

“He was trying to take his seatbelt off,” Arnold testified, but “Fox end up snatching the door open and grabbed him and throw him on the ground.” Arnold further said that “Fox had his knee on (Robinson’s) back and his arm on his shoulder, like, pushing his head up against the tire.”

Bolton said that Fox “raised his foot and stomped (Robinson).”

Family of George Robinson demanding justice
Bettersten Wade, George Robinson’s sister, on right, demanded on Jan. 24, 2019, that the police officers who beat her brother, who later died, be held accountable. Beside her is George’s mother, Vernice Robinson. Photo by Ashton Pittman

Robinson was cited for “disobeying the commands of a law-enforcement officer and resisting arrest,” but was released and ordered to leave after medical professionals placed a bandage on his head and assessed him for alertness.

Robinson then drove to the Mustang Inn on Highway 80 to visit his girlfriend, laying down on her bed and telling her that Jackson police officers had “beat him up.” Shortly thereafter, he began convulsing and foaming at the mouth.

Robinson died on Jan. 15 and the coroner ruled his death as a homicide, listing “at least three blunt injuries” to his head as the cause of death.

Fox, as well as officers Lincoln Lampley and Desmond Barney, were indicted for Robinson’s killing on Aug. 4, 2020. Lampley and Barney were tried separately; Judge Faye Peterson dismissed their charges with prejudice on May 20, 2021.

But a Hinds County jury found Fox guilty the next year. In 2022, Hinds County Circuit Judge Adrienne Wooten sentenced Anthony Fox to 20 years for Robinson’s killing, suspending 15. Fox was serving his five-year sentence in state prison.

On Tuesday afternoon after the court announced its decision, Attorney General Fitch celebrated the case’s conclusion on social media.

“We are grateful that Officer Anthony Fox has finally received the acquittal he deserves. This office will not shy away from the tough calls to do what is right and just,” Fitch wrote. “And here, the evidence led us to one conclusion: Officer Fox should be acquitted.”

Robinson was the brother of Bettersten Wade, a Jackson woman who made national headlines this past fall after learning that her son had died after an off-duty JPD officer struck him as he was crossing the interstate. She searched for her son Dexter Wade for months before learning he had been killed and buried in a pauper’s field without the family being notified. Since then, two other families have shared similar stories.

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