Mississippi Attorney General Seeks to Overturn Manslaughter Conviction of Police Officer
State Attorney Generals typically campaign on being tough on crime. It is almost unheard of for a state attorney general to argue for the release of a convicted criminal defendant. However, Mississippi State Attorney General Lynn Fitch is arguing for such a release on behalf of convicted former police officer Anthony Fox.
In 2019 in Jackson, MI, 62 year old George Robinson was ordered to leave his vehicle by former police officer Anthony Fox after Fox allegedly saw Robinson receiving money from a woman. Fox claimed that he suspected Robinson and the woman of being involved in a drug deal. Fox and his two other officers, Desmond Barney and Lincoln Lampley, proceeded to throw Robinson out of his vehicle and headfirst onto the roadway pavement. The three officers allegedly proceeded to strike and kick Robinson multiple times in the head and the chest.
Robinson declined medical treatment beyond a head bandage, but passed away a couple of days later following a stroke. The coroner determined that the cause of death was multiple blunt head trauma and classified his death as a homicide. All four men involved were African-American.
District Attorney Jody Owens conveyed a grand jury and charged all three officers with second degree murder, but downgraded the charge against Fox to negligent manslaughter. The charges against the other two officers were dismissed by the court. In 2022, a jury found Fox guilty of negligent manslaughter. The court sentenced him to twenty years in prison, with fifteen years suspended sentence, for a total sentence of five years.
Fox’s attorney appealed the case, but in a surprising turn of events, Mississippi State Attorney General Lynn Fitch filed a brief urging the appellate court to overturn the conviction. The state argues that there was insufficient evidence to support the manslaughter charge. District Attorney Owens accused the state of making factual misrepresentations and failing in its duty to represent the state of Mississippi by advocating for the release of a convicted defendant. This dispute is part of a larger debate about Mississippi’s new laws to create a state-appointed court to oversee criminal cases in Jackson, MI instead of local control by Jackson’s own city attorneys.
Role of Criminal Prosecutors
Prosecutors have discretion as to when, who, and what to charge a criminal defendant. Although prosecutors generally run for election on “law and order” platforms, their primary responsibility is not to throw criminals in jail. Instead, are to take into account the best interests of the state as a whole.
Fitch is not completely out of step for a prosecutor. If a prosecutor earnestly believes that there is insufficient evidence to bring charges against a defendant, then the prosecutor should have the defendant released or dismiss all charges.
In Fox’s case though, a jury has already found him guilty based on the available evidence. After a conviction, it’s not about whether there was enough evidence to prosecute a defendant, but whether a procedural error occurred, such as the court making a mistake in administering the trial or whether the defendant was given insufficient legal counsel. Fox already has legal counsel and he doesn’t need the state’s attorney general to become a second advocate on his behalf.
Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
A criminal defense attorney can help you build your case can represent you during all the phases of a murder or manslaughter trial. The emotional benefits include some sense of relief that your attorney is on your side.