Murder charges were dropped against two of the three Mississippi police officers who were accused of body-slamming a man who later died.
Hinds County Judge E. Faye Peterson said Thursday that there was not enough evidence to prove that Officers Desmond Barney and Lincoln Lampley acted in a criminal manner in the January 2019 death of George Robinson.
“There is nothing on its face to show that there was anything illegal about them performing their duty,” Peterson said during a livestream of the hearing.
She added that the state did not prove that “the defendants committed any of the offenses charged in the indictment” and that witnesses who testified could not identify the officers.
Peterson said she considered the lesser charge of manslaughter, but the facts did not meet the legal requirement. The murder charges were dropped with prejudice, meaning the two officers cannot be tried again.
Barney and Lampley, along with Officer Anthony Fox, were indicted for second-degree murder last year in Robinson’s death. The officers, who were all employed with the Jackson Police Department at the time, were accused of forcibly removing Robinson from his car, slamming him headf irst onto the ground, and striking and kicking him multiple times in the head and chest.
Robinson, 62, who was Black, died days later. According to the Clarion-Ledger, a state medical examiner said that Robinson died from multiple blunt head injuries. His manner of death was ruled a homicide.
Jackson Police Chief James Davis previously said that the officers, who are also Black, were giving Robinson a citation on a misdemeanor charge. According to prosecutors, they believed they had seen him dealing drugs.
Robinson wasn’t arrested because the officers conducted a field release, where the suspect is given a court date instead of being taken to jail. The officers were not wearing body-worn cameras during the incident, according to Davis.
District Attorney Jody Owens said that he believed the evidence against the officers was “sufficient,” according to the Clarion-Ledger.
“For those of you who watched the trial, there was tons of evidence in this case…I’m surprised and disappointed,” Owens said.
Robinson’s sister, Bettersten Wade, said that she does not hate the officers but hates “that it happened to my brother,” the outlet reported.
“I would have rather seen him sitting in a jail cell and I could go see him. But right now, I can’t even go see him because he lost his life,” she said.
Wade did not immediately return a phone call on Friday.
Lampley was reassigned to non-enforcement duties with the Jackson Police Department pending the outcome of the case, his attorney Francis Springer said via email on Friday. Barney and Fox left the department and were hired in nearby Clinton.
A spokesperson for the Clinton Police Department said that the two officers are still employed. Mayor Phil Fisher praised the judge’s decision in dropping the charges.
“The City would like to commend Judge Peterson for her integrity and wisdom in these proceedings. The City of Clinton continues to support our officers and looks forward to Officer Anthony Fox’s exoneration in the future,” the mayor said in a statement.
The Jackson Police Department did not immediately return a request for comment.
Springer said that his client hopes to return to active police duties immediately.
“We continue to extend our sympathies to Mr. Robinson’s family,” Springer said in a statement. “My client is obviously pleased with the Court’s decision. He’s waited two years for the facts to be shown to the world. A fair and impartial judge saw the facts and determined the allegations had no merit and that the officers had violated no laws.”
“There was no physical evidence showing any of the officers assaulted Mr. Robinson. As unfortunate and tragic as Mr. Robinson’s death has been, the state trying to imprison innocent men for murdering him makes it so much worse,” the attorney added. “It’s great to know the Justice System still works.”
Michael Cory, an attorney for Barney, said the officers used “reasonable force” after Robinson resisted getting out of his car. He denied that they slammed Robinson, saying in a phone interview Friday that they “went to the ground.”
As far as the judge’s decision Cory said, “We were very pleased with the results and we think justice was served.”
An attorney for Fox could not be reached on Friday. Fox will be tried separately before a different judge in the near future, according to the Clarion-Ledger.