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Appeals court reverses conviction of former Jackson police officer accused of beating man to death

Anthony Fox
Photo courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Corrections

The state’s appeals court has reversed the conviction of a former Jackson police officer accused of extreme actions that caused a 62-year-old man to die.

In August 2022, Anthony Fox was sentenced to five years in prison for culpable-negligence manslaughter in the January 2019 death of George Robinson. Fox, alongside officers Lincoln Lampley and Desmond Barney, were staking out an area on Jones Avenue in Jackson in search of a man accused of killing a local pastor when it all went wrong.

A barbecue was taking place at a nearby residence and the officers were planning to interview those at the location to see if they could gather information about the suspected killer. Robinson, who allegedly was hosting the barbecue, was returning home from the store when he was approached by Fox.

Fox is said to have yanked Robinson out of his vehicle, slammed him to the ground, stomped on him, and used excessive force to the victim’s head and chest area. Robinson was cited by Fox for resisting arrest and was told to leave the scene.

Soon after, Robinson went to a local hotel to visit his girlfriend who was living at the location. She had allegedly left to go to the store while Robinson was in good condition, but returned to him in an unconscious state.

Paramedics rushed Robinson to the University of Mississippi Medical Center where he was reported to have a subdural hematoma, or collection of blood, on his brain. An emergency craniotomy was performed to relieve the pressure. Nonetheless, Robinson passed away at the hospital two days later.

While the other two officers have since been cleared of any wrongdoing, Fox was convicted of Robinson’s death after being hired by the Clinton Police Department. The injuries the 62-year-old sustained from the law enforcement officer were believed to be directly related to his passing.

In a 5-4 decision, the appeals court found that there was insufficient evidence presented during Fox’s trial and that the jury was not properly instructed ahead of arguments being presented, thus overturning the initial decision to convict the officer.

“The State concedes error on this issue. After review, we likewise conclude that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict. The conviction is reversed, and a judgment of acquittal is rendered in Fox’s favor,” the appeals court’s ruling states.

Fox cannot be retried unless Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch has a change of heart and decides to take the case. Fitch in July 2023 came out in Fox’s defense and urged the state’s high court to overturn his sentence.

A statement from the AG following Tuesday’s ruling reads:

“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. And here, the evidence led us to one conclusion: Officer Fox should be acquitted.  We appreciate the Court of Appeals’ thorough review of the facts and law that led to the same determination.

Today, a wrong has been righted, and justice has been done. The good men and women who wear the uniform to keep us safe and maintain law and order in our communities need to know that their Attorney General will always have their back. We are their partners and whether we call it Back the Blue or Back the Badge or Blue Lives Matter, it all comes down to this: Supporting law enforcement is the right thing to do.”

Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens issued the following statement in response to the court’s decision.

“While we are disappointed in the Court of Appeals’ decision today, we respect the Court’s opinion and thank the Court for its careful consideration of this case. The Hinds County District Attorney’s Office’s goal in each case is to seek justice. In prosecuting this matter, our office followed the recommendation and will of the law enforcement agency who investigated this case, the Hinds County Grand Jury that returned a true-bill indictment, and the 12 jurors who received the evidence, were instructed on the law and unanimously returned a verdict of guilt. In this case, as in every case, our office followed the law and discharged our constitutional and statutory duties. While we carefully review the Court’s decision and evaluate the appropriate path forward, our thoughts and prayers are with the family of George Robinson.”

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