By Chris Nakamoto | WBRZ | June 18, 2021
BATON ROUGE – A newly-obtained email from inside State Police revealed how the agency’s top lawyer was monitoring use-of-force complaints and even provided her opinion on how troopers could avoid possible lawsuits or complaints.
The email from Faye Morrison, the general counsel for Louisiana State Police, was sent in September 2019. It was just recently obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit.
Morrison wrote the message to other agency attorneys after Ronald Greene died while in State Police custody.
Morrison opined, if a suspect could be found guilty or plead guilty to resisting arrest, excessive force complaints may not hold weight.
Morrison wrote: “…Where plaintiff pleaded guilty to underlying charge of resisting arrest, he cannot undermine that verdict with a judgement of excessive force. With no underlying claim, there is no claim for failure to supervise or failure to train. This shows how important guilty verdicts or pleas on the resisting arrest charges are to our civil cases. Please keep this in mind in oversight of your civil suits/use of force claims. What happens in the criminal part is important to the civil claim.”
Legal experts interviewed for a story first seen on WBRZ News 2 at 6:00 Thursday found the message concerning. They read the email and reviewed a case file Morrison referenced. The email and case were obtained through a public records request filed by WBRZ.
Defense attorney and former prosecutor Beau Brock said Morrison’s interpretation is incorrect and questioned the optics of writing the email.
“You could be guilty of resisting… but it doesn’t give police carte blanche to beat the hell out of you,” Brock said.
Morrison’s email was sent four months after Ronald Greene died. It took 16 months and numerous stories by WBRZ and Chris Nakamoto before the full version of his death was revealed. Two years later, body camera footage was only just released. Troopers’ body cameras showed Greene in a bloody and violent encounter with troopers in Troop F, the agency that policies the Monroe area.
Following multiple excessive force incidents there, a review is currently underway.
“To me it’s concerning in today’s climate we’re sending out emails, here’s how we get carte blanche is how people in Louisiana will interpret that email,” Brock said.
Rafael Goyeneche is a corruption watchdog. He also questions her interpretation of the case she’s referring to after reading both the case and her email.
“It could be interpreted by reading this is that all you need to do to defeat any excessive force claim is to obtain a conviction for resisting arrest,” Goyeneche said. “To justify any claims of excessive force, that’s not what this opinion says.”
Morrison ended her email with an ominous thought – there was an excessive force case she was monitoring in Monroe: “We currently have one in Troop F that I have my eye on,” she wrote.
Goyeneche is curious what else Morrison knew and if other top brass at State Police were aware of issues within Troop F.
“So now, in context of 2021, you look back at this and say, ‘what did the legal department and senior management know was a problem at Troop F in September of 2019?'” Goyeneche questioned.
“I think it undermines public confidence in State Police,” Brock said.
State Police refused to allow Morrison to be interviewed for this story, responding to requests for interviews that she can’t discuss legal matters. But, said the other case Morrison mentioned in her email was unrelated to the death of Ronald Greene.