Trial that was to start this week now set for Nov. 1
The manslaughter trial for a former law enforcement officer who shot a woman in his wife’s stolen car has been moved from Jasper County to Forrest County because of excessive media coverage, Judge Stanley Sorey ordered. The trial, which was slated to start this week after a previous delay, will now begin on Nov. 1 in Hattiesburg.
Christopher Wade Robertson, 30, was charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of 30-year-old Dominic Ann Henry back in November 2019 at his poultry farm on Highway 528, just east of Bay Springs. He claimed self-defense, saying she had stolen the car and was trying to run over him.
Before that incident, the former Laurel Police Department officer was fired after being accused of using excessive force on a motorist who led officers on a pursuit into Jasper County after fleeing from a roadblock in North Laurel. The city settled a civil suit filed in federal court in that case, but Robertson still faces an aggravated assault charge in Jasper County Circuit Court in that case.
Because of all the publicity in local media outlets, Robertson’s attorney H.H. Klein III argued that his client would not receive a fair trial there. “Jasper County is a tight-knit community” and the facts of the case are “well known in the community,” according to the motion he filed in December 2021.
Sorey signed the order to change the venue to Forrest County on July 25. In the order he wrote that he agreed the defendant could not receive a fair trial due to the pre-trial publicity and that a venue change was justified.
Robertson's trial was previously rescheduled in February 2021 to July 2021, after Jasper County Circuit Court Judge Eddie Bowen’s death caused by COVID-19 complications.
A grand jury indicted Robertson for manslaughter in August 2020, and it was noted in the indictment that Robertson “did not act in self-defense” as he shot “two or more times into the side of the vehicle.” Henry reportedly beat on Robertson’s door before daylight, and when he went to investigate, she had gotten into his wife’s car and started driving away. When Robertson tried to stop her, she tried to run over him, and he shot and killed her, he said.
On the aggravated assault charge, Robertson was indicted along with former LPD officer Bryce Gilbert, 29. Robertson and Gilbert pleaded not guilty. Both were fired from LPD after a review of the body-cam video in the 2018 episode in which they chased James Barnett over the county line after Barnett fled a traffic checkpoint in North Laurel.
The suspect reportedly got out of the car and lay face-down after the 20-mile chase, but the officers were accused of beating and kicking him, using unnecessary force.
They were indicted for aggravated assault in August 2020 after they “caused and/or attempted to cause serious bodily injury to James Barnett,” according to the indictment. Gilbert was found guilty by a Paulding jury in February. Sorey sentenced Gilbert to seven years, with two to serve in full-time custody, plus five years post-release supervision. Robertson’s trial for the aggravated assault has yet to be set.