Mississippi AG Fights for Release of Cop After Jury Convicts Him in Death of Unarmed, Black Stroke Victim
A two-week trial in the Circuit Court of Hinds County ended with a jury returning a guilty verdict and convicting Former Jackson Police Officer Anthony Fox of Culpable Negligence Manslaughter.
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch is asking a judge to toss out a jury's verdict and let a cop convicted of culpable negligence manslaughter walk free.
That conviction came after what Hinds County District Attorney Jody E. Owens called an "unprovoked altercation" between former Jackson Police Officer Anthony Fox and George Robinson, a 62-year-old Black man and stroke victim who suffered from partial paralysis.
Fox, who is also Black, had been in the neighborhood searching for a suspect in the killing of a local pastor.
Robinson in no way matched the description of the 19-year-old who was eventually arrest for that crime, but Fox said he approached the sexagenarian and ordered him to get out of his vehicle after seeing a woman hand him money.
Fox later claimed that he suspected Robinson and the other woman were involved in a drug deal.
Robinson and the woman were both guests at a celebratory family cookout according to Owens.
Fox ordered Robinson out of the car and then "ripped open his car door and began forcibly removing Robinson from the vehicle," says Owens.
Witnesses later testified that Robinson had been slow to unbuckle his seatbelt due to his paralysis, and that they heard the man say multiple times that he had recently had a stroke.
Fox and his two fellow officers, Desmond Barney and Lincoln Lampley, allegedly proceeded to throw Robinson headfirst onto the roadway pavement, then strike and kick him multiple times in the head and the chest, according to the grand jury indictment. Barney and Lampley are also Black.
"Fox then restrained him face down by placing his knee in Robinson’s back while Robinson’s head was wedged against the tire and the ground," Owens said in a statement.
An ambulance arrived on the scene and bandaged the wound on Robinson's head. He then declined any further medical treatment.
A few hours later, Robinson started having seizures. Two days later, Robinson passed away.
Mississippi’s Chief Medical Examiner determined that Robinson died of "multiple blunt head trauma." The medical examiner classified the manner of death as "homicide."
Once the medical examiner made this determination, the district attorney's office presented the case to a Hinds County Grand Jury, who returned a true-bill indictment charging Fox with Second Degree Murder.
Barney and Lampley were initially indicted alongside Fox for Second Degree Murder, but the judge overseeing the case dismissed the charges against those men, saying that no evidence existed to suggest that they had committed the offenses outlined in the indictment.
In the wake of that decision, the district attorney's office sought a conviction on the lesser charge of Culpable Negligence Manslaughter in Fox's case.
The case then went to trial where two witnesses testified that they saw Fox slam Robinson’s head into the ground. Witnesses also testified that Robinson could be herd saying “Why are y’all doing this?” and yelling in pain.
Fox's attorney repeated his client's claims that Robinson had been suspected of being involved in a drug deal with a woman, and suggested he may have ingested the drugs in question when he approached the vehicle.
Fox's attorney also argued that any force used that day would not have caused Robinson's death.
Owens says that cell phone footage taken by a person on the scene and entered as evidence at trial does not show Robinson ingesting a substance during the incident. He also says that cops made no effort to speak to the woman involved in the alleged drug deal despite the fact that she remained on the scene.
The two-week trial in the Circuit Court of Hinds County ended with a jury returning a guilty verdict and convicting Fox of Culpable Negligence Manslaughter.
The court sentenced Fox to 20 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with 15 years suspended and five years to serve.
Fox then appealed the case, prompting the state attorney general to file a brief with the Mississippi Court of Appeals arguing that "the evidence at trial was insufficient as a matter of law to allow a rational juror to convict" Fox.
Fitch claims that Fox only used force when Robinson resisted arrest, and alleges that Fox thought Robinson was grabbing a gun when he went to unbuckle his seatbelt,
Furthermore, she claims Robinson's abrasions were too superficial to support a murder charge.
Fitch then closes out her brief by stating: "This Court should reverse Fox’s conviction and render judgment in his favor."
These arguments are similar to those made by Fox in his appeal.
This brief has now put Fitch at odds with Owens, who did not hold back in his response to this filing.
"Here, a citizen died following an unprovoked altercation with police. The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was homicide. A grand jury returned a true bill indictment. Twelve citizens sat in judgment, weighed the evidence, assessed the credibility of the witness testimony, and found that the evidence presented at trial proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Anthony Fox was guilty of culpable negligence manslaughter," Owens said in a statement obtained by Inside Edition Digital.
He continued: "The Attorney General’s job is to make the best possible argument for the State of Mississippi. It is a critical part of the adversarial process. It is not her job to assist or represent the interests of a criminal defendant convicted by a jury of his peers."
This very public feud between Attorney General Fitch — a white woman — and District Attorney Owens — a Black man — is playing out at the same time as another major court case in the state.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department filed a brief backing the NAACP's challenge to a new bill passed in the state of Mississippi that the organization claims is discriminatory against residents of Hinds County.
That bill created what is being called the Capitol Complex Improvement District Court. This is a separate court system that is unique to the majority-Black county where judges are appointed by the Mississippi Supreme Court chief justice and prosecutors are appointed by the attorney general.
Judges and district attorneys have traditionally been elected in the state, and continue to be in every other county.
The DOJ filed a motion to intervene earlier this month after the NAACP filed a complaint in federal court against Fitch, in her capacity as attorney general and against the State of Mississippi.
"The Equal Protection Clause prohibits singling out Black residents of Hinds County for second-class treatment and favoring White residents for special treatment," the NAACP says in its complaint. "Because the appointment provisions of [the new law] were created by the State to intentionally discriminate based on race, they violate the Fourteenth Amendment."
Owens also weighed in on the law in a statement, saying: "This is a blatant attempt to steal the right to vote and elect officials from the citizens of Hinds County. All citizens of Hinds County and the State of Mississippi should be alarmed at the attempted disenfranchisement of citizens.
He went on to say: "As a state, we have come to far in ensuring all citizens have equal rights. To take this monumental step backwards, removes self- government and minimizes the voices of our citizens."
The law is currently on hold after a lawsuit was filed in state court just days after the governor signed the bill into law back in April. That hold was then extended by a federal court judge in May.
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