Guilty verdict returned in stabbing case

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, February 10, 2018

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Jurors in the 271st District Court this week were faced with trying to determine if the person who stabbed and seriously injured a Paradise resident acted criminally or in self-defense.

Robert Lee Thompson

After several hours of deliberation Thursday, the jury determined Robert Lee Thompson of Boyd was guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

But the jury also didn’t feel like the crime should result in a prison sentence – at least not at this time. After several more hours of deliberation Thursday, the jury returned a 7-year sentence but recommended the sentence be probated.

The assault took place at a home in the 100 block of County Road 3250 on the night of Aug. 23, 2016. The victim, Wayne Robinson Jr., testified that Thompson arrived at his home with Robinson’s girlfriend, Rhonda Deering, and her cousin, Tina Gregory, after the three had attended a wake for Thompson’s cousin. Robinson said he didn’t want Thompson there and told him to leave several times.

When Thompson didn’t leave, Robinson said he went inside and got a shotgun, came back outside and fired it into a burn pile not in Thompson’s direction to “scare and intimidate” him in order to make him leave.

After placing the gun inside the home and then returning outside to see Thompson still at the house, Robinson walked over to Thompson to physically take him to the truck to leave. That’s when the two began fighting, he testified.

The two went to the ground, with Robinson on bottom holding onto Thompson in a headlock. Robinson said he was going to let go so Thompson could leave.

“He (Thompson) said, ‘Too late. You’re dead,'” Robinson said. “I said, ‘What?’ and before he said it a second time, he stabbed me.”

Robinson said he didn’t immediately realize he had been stabbed, but when he stood up and looked down, part of his intestine was coming out of his belly. As he walked away from Thompson, Robinson said he was stabbed once more in the back.

“It’s like he was trying to get me in the lung,” he said.

Thompson testified in his own defense and said after Robinson had fired the shotgun, he was scared of what Robinson might do to him.

He testified that Robinson came up to him and threw the first punch, and as the two were fighting, he thought Robinson might be trying to reach up to get a gun that Thompson said Robinson’s girlfriend was carrying.

“I was scared I was fixing to die,” he said.

It was at that point, Thompson said, that he brought out his knife as an act of self-defense. He said as he and Gregory were driving away from the home, he threw out the knife into a field.

Deering denied having her gun on her that day, and officers said no gun was found on Deering when they spoke to her.

Assistant District Attorney Jay Lapham played a video recording of an interview Thompson gave Wise County Sheriff’s Office investigators prior to his arrest. In the video, Thompson gives several different versions of events and at first denies that the knife was his or that he was the one who stabbed Robinson. He eventually admitted to stabbing Robinson and to throwing away the knife, but he didn’t admit that he brought the knife to the fight until his second interview, following his arrest.

Thompson testified the reason he wasn’t honest at first was because he was scared and intimidated by the officers.

Thompson’s attorney, Mark Scott, pointed out that even Deering told officers that Robinson was the initial aggressor in the confrontation.

Scott also presented evidence that Robinson was found with methamphetamine in his possession and argued that he could have been high on methamphetamine when the assault took place. Robinson testified that he found the drugs in his driveway and had put them in his pocket but said he had not used methamphetamine.

In his closing argument to the jury during the first phase of the trial, Lapham argued that Thompson was not justified in using lethal force by “bringing a knife to a fist fight.”

“This is not a case of self-defense. This is a case of a man who was angry and stabbed another man,” he said.

Scott characterized the encounter differently, saying Thompson had brought a knife to a gun fight, referencing the shotgun that had been fired moments earlier.

“Those 30 seconds fighting for his life have him here fighting for his life again,” he said.

It took the jury about 2 1/2 hours to find Thompson guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

During the punishment phase of the trial, Lapham made the jury aware of Thompson’s five previous misdemeanor convictions, two for driving while intoxicated, driving while license suspended, possession of marijuana less than 2 ounces and failure to identify to a peace officer. Those convictions took place between 1998 and 2000.

Scott called one witness – Thompson’s dad, Johnny Thompson – during the final phase of the trial. The elder Thompson testified that his son lived with him and his wife and they could make sure he would abide by the conditions of his probation if the jury was to recommend that.

Katie Woods, who also defended Thompson, pointed out that he had no convictions for assaults in his background.

“Robert is not one who goes looking for a fight,” she said. “He’s a blue collar worker who responded in seconds.”

Lapham asked the jury for a 5-year prison sentence.

“Send him a strong message. Probation is the wrong message,” he said.

After another 2 1/2 hours of deliberation, the jury returned the verdict of a 7-year probated sentence.

Thompson’s sentencing hearing, where the terms and conditions of his probation will be set, is scheduled for next week.

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