Darius Robinson, an Oklahoma jail inmate who was first arrested in 2008 because he failed to pay child support, was strangulated to death by a jailer inside the Caddo County jail. The disturbing episode, which was caught on surveillance cameras, has now been made available to the Daily Beast, and could pose serious trouble to the man responsible for Robinson’s death, according to his family lawyer, Spencer Bryan.
In the video that has been widely circulated since it was made available online, Michael Allen Smith, a civilian corrections officer not trained by state law enforcement, can be seen entering the Oklahoma jail inmate’s cell with another jailer, Vicki Lyn Richardson. While the events preceding the arrival of the two officers in Robinson’s jail cell remain unclear, Mail Online reports that Smith and Richardson had entered the cell to calm Robinson after he made a failed attempt to escape the prison.
During the first few seconds of the video, the two officers can be seen sweeping up pieces of paper with their feet while Robinson moves around the cell before settling on a bench. While seated, Robinson leans towards Smith. In response, but what appears more like a predetermined effort to subdue the inmate, Smith wraps his forearm under Robinson’s neck while Richardson pepper sprays him and the two men fall to the floor.
Smith then gets on his knees and holds Robinson in a guillotine choke-hold. The inmate attempts to break free of the hold but fails, and around the same time, Richardson pulls Robinson’s hands behind his back and handcuffs him.
A third jailer can then be seen entering the cell and putting his foot on Robinson’s back. Throughout the course of the scuffle, Smith does not break his hold — stretching to more than a minute — and resulting in the eventual death of Darius Robinson.
Although paramedics later attempt to insert a breathing tube into Robinson’s crushed trachea repeatedly, Smith’s choke-hold proves fatal. The paramedics did not know at the time that Smith had strangulated Robinson.
According to the autopsy report, Robinson’s windpipe had been crushed, the hyoid bone supporting his tongue had been fractured, and the surrounding muscles had been hemorrhaging blood. A state medical examiner ruled the Oklahoma inmate’s death as homicide, saying in a report that “manual compression of the neck” led to Robinson’s demise.
Still, the county’s district attorney has not brought charges against either Smith, who placed Robinson in a choke-hold, or Richardson, who seems to have helped Smith in subduing the Oklahoma inmate. It is not yet clear what Smith’s line of defense could be for being so aggressive in his approach towards Robinson, but the inmate’s history could play a part.
Robinson, a father of seven children, was arrested in 2008 for failing to pay child support. Three days after his arrest, in April 2008, Robinson’s attorney said that he had a “manic episode” in the jail. A video of the incident provided by the jail to Robinson family’s attorney shows him waving a blanket, tearing pieces of paper, and writhing on the floor.
Robinson’s family were reportedly told later that Smith and Richardson had no option but to hold him in a choke-hold because the Oklahoma inmate was too aggressive and had “charged” at them. But the evidence in hand contradicts that statement, clearly showing that Robinson was not attempting to strike either of the officers.
Moreover, the lack of training in dealing with such situations on the officers’ part is something that should be investigated, the inmate’s attorney said. Under no circumstances should an inmate have to die, unless he is an immediate threat to the lives of the officers around him. And as the videos above show, Robinson does not appear to be a threat to either Smith or Richardson.
It is incidents like these that create a gulf between how the public views law enforcement officials and how they want to be viewed. It is the lack of conviction in such cases, or even the failure to bring charges against the jailers, that makes people question the fairness of the justice system.
[Image via Screengrab/The Daily Beast]