July 29, 2022

Officer Desmond Barney takes the stand for defense in George Robinson trial

Therese Apel

Officer Desmond Barney on the stand, answering questions from Attorney Michael Cory.

On Thursday afternoon, Clinton police officer Desmond Barney took the stand to talk about the night George Robinson died in January of 2019.

Barney and JPD Detective Lincoln Lampley were accused along with Detective Anthony Fox on a count of second degree murder in the death of 62-year-old George Robinson after an interaction on Jones Drive in Jackson. The prosecution is arguing that Fox, along with Lampley, slammed Robinson to the ground so hard he injured his head to the point of death. The defense is relying on testimony to show that Robinson injured his head on the ground while trying to hide drugs in his mouth. Dr. Mark LeVaughn also testified yesterday that Robinson was on the anticoagulant Plavix, which would make him subject to bleeding heavily with any small injury.

READ: Previous Thursday testimony

Barney and Lampley’s case was dismissed with prejudice in Judge Faye Peterson’s court. Federal Judge Carlton Reeves wrote an opinion that all three officers are protected by qualified immunity. The officers were cleared by the FBI and internal affairs. Nonetheless, DA Jody Owens’ office and Judge Adrienne Wooten are carrying the case against Fox forward.

Barney testified as the first defense witness. He told police that the Jackson SWAT team was canvassing the area the night of January 13, 2019, looking for a teen accused of killing Pastor Anthony Longino as he opened his church that morning. Barney said he pulled up on Jones Street and saw some people standing to the side of the road and stopped to talk to them.

There was a gathering at the home Robinson rented from the first prosecution witness, Ronnie Arnold, so the other officers went on to approach those people.

According to testimony, Fox saw what he thought was a drug deal going down at a white Oldsmobile in front of the yard and approached. That’s when Robinson refused to get out of the vehicle and stuck his hands down between the seat and the console. Lampley joined him by going to the passenger side window, then saw his hands were reaching for something in the console and made his way around to the drivers’ side to help get Robinson out of the vehicle.

Barney said he positioned himself basically at the back quarter panel, where he could see Robinson’s hands were still deep between the console and the seat. He testified that he had his weapon drawn because it was hard to tell whether Robinson might be reaching for a gun.

When Lampley and Fox finally got Robinson out of the vehicle, Barney testified — as Lampley did — that each had Robinson under an arm and they were attempting to keep him on his feet, as their training tells them not to go the the ground in a struggle. Barney said Robinson was facing him and was trying to push his head down toward his hands, which were clasped tightly. Barney said he noticed that was taking Robinson toward the ground, as he was not a small man.

Barney testified to Robinson’s being on his knees before he went to the ground, even as Lampley and Fox tried to get his hands apart and pull him to his feet.

“With my ten years on the police department and narcotics and SWAT, I’ve never seen someone try to keep something from police that hard. I was afraid he might have a firearm,” Barney testified. “Three grown men couldn’t break his grip, so he was strong.” 

Barney described himself as having been kneeling in the area just next to Robinson’s head. He said there was no injury visible to his head when Robinson was first on the ground, but he continued to struggle until it appeared to Barney that he got something in his mouth to swallow.

Discussion of whether Robinson swallowed something brought objections from the prosecution, as has any mention of Barney and Lampley’s case being thrown out with prejudice. Barney attempted to describe something Robinson said to Fox, and that was objected to as hearsay and sustained. Previously when Arnold testified of things that he heard Robinson allegedly said to Fox, it was allowed.

In the discussion of calling AMR that night, Robinson had been steadfast that he didn’t want the ambulance. Both Fox and Barney advised, even begged, according to Barney, that he just have the abrasions looked at. He finally agreed to a bandage.

Barney testified that when AMR arrived, they were asking people what had happened and Barney said he told them Robinson said he had swallowed something.

Objection, hearsay, sustained.

Barney said he talked to Robinson multiple times before he saw Robinson leave in his vehicle.

He testified that he and Fox were discussing taking Robinson to jail, but Barney reminded Fox that these were misdemeanors and the jail was overcrowded, so they probably wouldn’t take Robinson. At that point, he testified, they called Sgt. Scott Albrecht, their supervisor.

Barney is back on the stand Friday, facing cross-examination.

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