Mississippi court overturns conviction of police officer in death of man pulled from vehicle during stop

Published 5:59 am Wednesday, January 31, 2024

The Mississippi Court of Appeals on Tuesday overturned the conviction of a former Jackson police detective in the 2019 death of a man who was pulled from a vehicle while officers were searching for a pastor’s killer.

In acquitting Anthony Fox of culpable negligence manslaughter, a majority of the appeals court wrote that prosecutors failed to prove Fox “acted in a grossly negligent manner” or that the death of 62-year-old George Robinson “was reasonably foreseeable under the circumstances.”

In August 2022, a Hinds County jury convicted Fox, and Circuit Judge Adrienne Wooten sentenced him to five years in prison — a 20-year sentence with 15 suspended.

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An indictment accused Fox of pulling Robinson from a car on Jan. 13, 2019, and striking him in the head and chest as police were searching for a juvenile who was a suspect in the killing of a pastor. Robinson died in a hospital two days later.

An autopsy report listed Robinson’s death as a homicide caused by “at least three blunt injuries” to the head, according to court records.

A medical examiner, Dr. Mark LeVaughn, testified that an autopsy conducted by another physician showed abrasions on Robinson’s face but “no evidence of traumatic injury to the chest,” according to court records.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch filed papers last year asking the appeals court to overturn Fox’s conviction. She argued that prosecutors failed to prove the core element of culpable negligence manslaughter, which is “wanton disregard of, or utter indifference to, the safety of human life.”

Robinson received “a small, superficial abrasion on his forehead” but had no other visible injuries from the struggle with officers, Fitch wrote.

The Hinds County District Attorney’s Office said it could find no other case in which the attorney general, who represents the state in criminal appeals, argued to reverse a conviction.

In a dissenting opinion Tuesday, Appeals Court Judge John Emfinger wrote that it was clear that Fox and another officer forcibly removed Robinson from a vehicle and that Robinson’s head hit the asphalt roadway as officers were restricting his hands.

“Based on the evidence presented and the jury instructions given, I find the evidence was legally sufficient for twelve ‘reasonable, fair-minded (jurors), in the exercise of impartial judgment’ to find Fox guilty of culpable-negligence manslaughter,” Emfinger wrote.

Fitch praised the decision to overturn Fox’s conviction.

“Today, a wrong has been righted, and justice has been done,” she said in a statement. “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.”